By Manuel de Olivera


These two short fims seem to be the fading work of de Olivera .. who is 101 years old and still making movies… because they both lack his usual  brilliant photography and though the poems have religious content, Catholic, that is, they were not so inspiring. Narrated montage…




In 1909 … if I got the date right … the housemaid of Puccini,s wife at their villa on the lake, killed herself. She caught one of Puccini,s collaborators having it on with someone important … can-t recall who… and she starts a terrible rumor about the poor housemaid to secure her silence. The girl is so good … and smart enough… that the woman need not have bothered, but she did and hence the tragedy.


The unique aspect of this simple story is that it not only shows the consequences of the work of malicious tongues, but the film is devoid of conversation. Everything is effectively acted or told through letters and telegrams … hence the difficulty of identifying at least one of the characters. Puccini was no saint, and he did try to help the poor girl, but everyone, including Puccini,s wife, her mother, and the local pastor, turned against her. I am not familiar with the details of Puccini,s life, so I am not sure this really happened. But trueor not, it is a sad morality tale, beautifully rendered in film.


Z32 … edited August 30


This Israeli film was really powerful. A filmmaker tries to find a way to tell the story of a solider who two years previously was sent out to do revenge killings on Palestinian policemen, in this case unarmed and just doing their jobs of manning a road check. Two or four, we aren,t too sure, Israeli soldiers had been killed and several army troops were sent out to do revenge killings. One solider cannot quiet his conscience. The film shows the young man trying to elicit forgiveness from his girlfriend, but though she helps him rationalize the adrenalin filled life of a soldier, she is incapable of walking in his boots. The director sings a narration… about war and inhumanity, not only to the enemy but to the soldiers of the good side.


I haven,t done any background reading on this film so I don,t know if it is in fact a documentary or a fictional film told in documentary style. Either way, it is powerful and thought/provoking, and at the end of the day, deeply sad. Because forgiveness can only come from the one who has been offended, or their wives, children, and parents.


Note today, August 30: This film is called a musical documentary. The director is like Tevye of FIDDLER ON THE ROOF. He sings the story as the ex soldier tells his story. The write up in the festival catalogue says that the music was an attempt to tell a story that is essentially unrecountable through art. Though it the film drags somewhat, perhaps the audiences discomfort is a way to share in the pain of the plight of soldiers with a conscience everywhere. R


It just ends.




Charlize Theron in THE BURNING PLAIN


This film, by writer Gulliermo Arriaga … who wrote Amores Perros, 21 Grams, and Babel, is the story of a loner, played by Charlize Theron, who sleeps with anyone, lives an empty life, and how she got to this point. The narrative begins with an old single wide trailer blowing up in the desert in what seems like New Mexico. We find that a woman, played by Kim Basinger, has died in the fire with her lover.


How they got there, and how and why they died, is what the film is about. I cannot tell you any more but these few things…. It will be a challenge for many people to watch because of the usual reasons… violence, sex, nudity, language. However, the film transcends the human flaws of the characters to achieve … perhaps another Oscar nod for the writer and director and Charlize Theron  and maybe relative newcomber Jennifer Lawrence … ok, maybe Basinger, too. The negative aspects of the film are not gratuitous but demonstrate only too well the inner realities of the characters. If you liked or appreciated any or all of the above films … Amores, 21, Babel, you will want to put this on your list.


Forgiveness is possible.

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