RIDM 2017: A Modern Man (Germany/Denmark– 2017)

for Cinetalk.net

Don’t be fooled by silly synopses about Eva Mulvad’s A Modern Man. Many insinuate a tale of a hoity-toity, body and fashion-conscious, rich hunk. In fact, the subject in front of Mulvad’s lens is much more relatable, albeit falsely aloof. Yes, he has money. Yes, he likes fancy cars and luxury items, but this simply comes with the territory for a successful classical violinist from a well-off family. Overall, this is an essay about using the spotlight to achieve one’s goals without compromising one’s ideals. As with most active musicians, Charlie Siem jetsets between countries, appears for wardrobe fittings, and spends hours practicing his instrument. This lifestyle could include friendship and romance, but Siem is too fixated on his dreams to let such petty things taint his world.

There is a fine line between being stuck up and simply sticking to one’s objectives to a fault. The life the violinist lives brings him the joy of success, achievement, and recognition. However, the two-sided coin is that recognition only symbolizes ‘making it’ if it is the craft – the music – that is recognized. What does modeling for Hugo Boss do for a classical musician? It brings him adoring female fans that are only attracted to the photographer’s interpretation of who Siem is. Even Siem cannot recognize himself in these artistic portraits. Contrary to public opinion, he is not the most attractive hunk on the face of the planet. He is an average-looking man with boyish features and ill-sitting hair. He is neither poised when he stalks around in his tailored summer wear, nor when he’s bumming around in Continue reading


RIDM 2017: Antoine (Quebec, 2008)

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Laura Bari’s Antoine is a delightful documentary about the imagination and creativity of children. At the helm of a playtime detective agency, Antoine Hoang is the most resourceful of his group of friends. Despite his disability, he shows remarkable maturity and leadership skills. Six-year-old Antoine was born very premature. During incubation period, he suffered retinal detachment due to an overuse of oxygen. Nevertheless, he finds incredible ways to – just like his peers – be a kid.

Bari took a novel approach to documenting the child in his natural habitat. Instead of only capturing moments with her camera, she invented a fictional character and mystery storyline, and presented the ‘clues’ to Antoine in the form of a children’s activity. She also gave him recording equipment to document his Continue reading

RIDM 2017: Qu’Importe la Gravité (Quebec, 2017)

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Matthieu Brouillard’s Qu’Importe La Gravité begins with some food for thought: Without understanding the psychology of weightlessness – the nostalgia for lightness – we cannot understand the psychology of gravity – “that which makes us heavy, weary, slow, falling beings.” (Gaston Bachelard). This idea brings both lightness and heaviness to Brouillard’s portrait of late-in-life friends, Bruce and Christian. At times, flight, being airborne, being free are literal, as Christian sails over mountaintops despite his visual impairment. More, the metaphor characterizes the heaviness of Bruce’s bipolar disorder and incapacity to perform challenging but fun tasks that could liberate him.

Bruce is both alarming and endearing. A manchild who doesn’t mince words, neither about his interests nor his personality disorder. He admits he is “mental” just like his godmother. He openly announces that Continue reading

RIDM 2017: Je Ne Me Souviens De Rien (France, 2017)

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The presence of the Camera in the documentary film genre can become invasive if not kept at just the perfect distance from the subject matter. However, when a filmmaker turns the camera inward, authenticity is gauged by just how close the subject allows themself to be to the cameraperson (the Self). Diane Sara Bouzgarrou’s Je Ne Me Souviens de Rien works in that aspect. She records herself up close, nude, with her lover, and even irritating her sibling who doesn’t want to be filmed. The lens is invasive, but that’s what makes the footage so intimate.

Alternately, some clips were shot by Bouzgarrou’s boyfriend. A lover usually qualifies as the second closest person to the Self, only in competition with a parent. Tender moments are therefore seen with Bouzgarrou hugging her mother, and musing to the camera about relationships while her boyfriend tries to sleep next to her. Creating further intimate atmosphere, some scenes are audio only. To a black screen, the protagonist whispers as if Continue reading

RIDM 2017: Cielo (Quebec/Chile, 2017)

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Alison McAlpine’s Cielo is a love letter to the sky. Filmed in the Atacama Desert in Chile, the filmmaker raises the question, What is your relation with the sky? For one, it nourishes us. It breeds imagination and existential questions. It’s also a heckuva a beauty, especially seen from a location used by astronomers because of its vastness and lack of light pollution. Cinematographer Benjamin Echazarreta has done a fine job of capturing that beauty. Long shots allow the viewer to see star trails and transitions between sunset and complete night. Often, the sights are unreal, as if created digitally. These too-pretty-to-be-real images are Continue reading