MIFF2010 Roundup: Week 2

More reviews on Screen Machine… first up:



Cities on Speed 2


I saw the first session of Cities on Speed too, but this pretty much covers both.

Bill Cunningham: New York


Anthony Carew dismissed this fairly off hand in a recent Inpress, saying it didn’t get very far below the surface. But sometimes I think a documentary subject is so profoundly engaging, so interesting that film makers are really tasked with simply editing them into something cohesive, rather than having to doll things up too much with extra material. I felt like this might be the case with Bill Cunningham: New York. Not to take away from what the film makers did, as I’m sure they were effective interviewers, and strong imagers. But Bill Cunningham is such a marvellous (to use his oft repeated phrase) person, he eats up the screen- you just want to spend more time with him.

An incongruous fashion icon- as acutely ascetic as he is astutely aesthetic-he is a septugenarian photographer who rides around the streets documenting the latest fashions as worn by the people, as well as the catwalks and the high society charity galas where the rich hob nob. Disdainful of the excesses of celebrity and fashion, he has a catholic concern for austerity, and a bower-bird’s concern for colour and shape. Holed up in a studio in Carnegie Hall (one left of a handful) he is towered over by a city of filing cabinets where his life’s work is stored. He drops casual gems of advice- such as to never take money for your work- which you might not take so seriously were it  not obvious that he himself quite does.  He is the type of man for whom having his photos co-opted for a fashion “Dos and Don’ts” column was a horror he never fully recovered from- a person of such integrity it hurts.

There are two deeply moving, deeply sad axis points in this film:

The first is when he is awarded a prize for culture and arts in Paris, and his voice breaks as he accepts: although he has insisted he doesn’t deserve it, and doesn’t know why they are giving it to him (and is in deed covering his own ceremony, camera in hand). He says a few words in broken French and then finishes, emotionally with “It’s as true now as it’s always been: He who looks for beauty, will find it”


When being asked, gently, if he has ever had a romantic relationship in his life, he first easily admits that no, he hasn’t, and then when asked if he goes to church regularly, out of nowhere a huge wave of emotion overcomes him momentarily- a cloud literally passes over him, before it’s over and he’s smiling and giggling again- the abruptness of the contrast leaving you gasping for air.

Every other moment of the film he is nothing less than determinedly cheery and resilient- perhaps a facade, but one you cannot begrudge this tremendous, inspiring man.

Turns out I’m no good at this rapid fire reviewing, so I’m going to keep it brief….

Winter’s Bone

Not sure that I totally believe there are evil meth-lord hillbillies roaming around the ozarks in quite the manner Winter’s Bone depicts them, but still, for such a slow, contemplative film, this was amazingly pacy and engaging. Strong visuals, strong performances. The homes and people in this film felt strangely familiar to me, and some of the images are burned into my head: a little girl jumping around listlessly on her trampoline, on a plastic ride-on pony being one. Being poor, and young, and bored is a specific set of conditions not often depicted honestly or with as much warmth, so I appreciated that.

World on a Wire

Where do I start? Maybe look here, if you’re interested, cos I can’t be bothered re-hashing (WORST BLOGGER EVER): http://www.screenmachine.tv/2010/08/02/miff-10-world-on-a-wire-1973-matinee-videocracy/


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