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Using failures as stepping stones: “Nome Próprio” [2007 Brazil]

Murilo Salles co-opted author Clara Averbuck’s alter ego Camila from her groundbreaking novel (Máquina de Pinball) for his drama “Nome Próprio” [Eng. Title: Camila Jam].

Leandra Leal in "Camila Jam" (2007 Brazil)Set in São Paulo, the film begins with Camila (Leandra Leal) being kicked out of the apartment by boyfriend Felipe (Juliano Cazarré) following a flaming row between them – apparently she’d ‘cheated’ on him and he wants her out of his life. Camila’s shame, outrage, and vulnerability is underscored by the added detail of her also being completely naked when the eviction happens.

Leandra Leal in "Camila Jam" (Brazil, 2007)Camila wants to be a writer, and whilst waiting for her inspiration, keeps herself engaged socially by maintaining a blog where she’d also built up a following. After a friend in whose apartment she found shelter vacates and leaves unexpectedly, one of her blog fans comes to her rescue and offers her a place a stay.

Leandra Leal in "Camila Jam" (2007, Brazil)But Camila also doesn’t want to be just any writer – she craves for poetry and intensity in everything she does, and she seeks them wherever she can, regardless of the people she might hurt, or despite unfailingly getting hurt herself. Her resourcefulness and chutzpah allows her to dust herself off after every little calamity and and keep chasing that elusive something she’s looking for. As she herself admits, “Sometimes they break my legs, they kick me in the face, and they stomp on my fingers. I survive. I’m scarred too, but I make the most of each and every one of my scars.”

Leandra Leal in "Nome Próprio" (2007, Brazil)Leandra Leal makes the film special by her unforgettable no-holds-barred portrayal of Camila as an intense and worryingly unsatisfied woman. And of course, the credit for that can justifiably be shared with the director too for helping Ms. Leal bring this character out of her. Watching the film after nearly a decade and with a bit more ‘mature’ eyes certainly helped me discover nuances I had missed earlier. I’m aware of some films from elsewhere that touches on similar topics, but the intensity seen in this film is certainly unique. Needless to say, this little gem is Highly Recommended Viewing..!

DVD Purchase Link [NTSC]

 

The Nudity: Leandra Leal, Rosanne Mulholland, Ricardo Garcia, and Gustavo Machado
Leandra Leal appears nude in a number of scenes, most of which are also long and intense. Rosanne Mulholland plays Camila’s best friend Paula and appears nude in a post-coital scene with Leandra Leal. Ricardo Garcia and Gustavo Machado appear briefly nude during their scenes with Camila. The film also features one of the more ‘intriguing’ sex scenes not often seen in mainstream cinema. A drunk Camila taunts, teases, rejects, and challenges an equally drunk Rodrigo (Ricardo Garcia) in a scene that oscillates between rape and seduction for over 8½ minutes – a scene that I’d also love to discuss with readers in the comments section.

Leandra Leal, Rosanne Mulholland, Ricardo Garcia, and Gustavo Machado in "Nome Próprio" aka "Camila Jam" (2007, Brazil)

Leandra Leal in scenes from “Nome Próprio” aka “Camila Jam” (2007, Brazil).

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A film review: “The House” [1997 Lithuania]

Sarunas Bartas:

Sarunas BartasAs one of Lithuania’s foremost auteurs, Sarunas Bartas is known for his poetic, brooding, and contemplative cinema that allow themselves to be interpreted variously based on individual experiences. If some critics are eager to brand his work pretentious and self-indulgent, it is perhaps because the films might appear opaque to casual viewers. While his films feature no formal narrative and no directly expressed opinions, one could yet detect meaningful undercurrents if they’re willing to immerse themselves in his slowly-meandering stream of visuals. By ‘slow’, we’re talking Béla Tarr and Theo Angelopoulos ‘slow’. His visuals themselves; be it the grandest of Tarkovskian outdoors, the decaying rooms, or the sympathetic wrinkles on a sun-beaten face, are nevertheless stunningly captured in all their glory and fans of cinematography will find it very hard to not like his work.

 

“The House” (1997)

The House (1997)In a way, “The House” (Orig. Title: A Casa) makes a departure from Sarunas Bartas’s earlier films in that it is un-apologetically allegorical. It is also less ‘accessible’ than his earlier films because it relates more closely to local history. The fact that there are very few words spoken in the film also encourages us to over analyse every scene and look for clues. It works better if we don’t.

"The House" (1997)The film begins with a view of a mansion that had certainly seen better days, and a male voice is heard reading from what could be a page from a diary. He opens up to his mother on things he had always wanted to talk about, but never managed to during his previous visits. He confesses to having imaginary conversations with her and receiving her (imagined) replies, the way it used to be during his childhood. We’re taken indoors where a disheveled young man (Francisco Nascimento) wakes up in a room surrounded by fluttering decorated pigeons, and that’s just a couple of minutes into our two-hour film.

Valeria Bruni Tedeschi from "The House" (1997)As he goes through each room, we witness groups of people and animals who don’t originally belong in the household seeking refuge there, about which the protagonist isn’t too perturbed. We see a lonely woman (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi) unresponsive to calls for attention by a different man next door, but instead entertains herself by enacting her backstory using finger-puppets.

"The House" (1997)We see an elderly couple join others for dinner but go back upstairs their separate ways. We see a room filled with naked children, and one with naked women caressing our protagonist. And before the revelation that happens at the very end, we see fireworks around a decorated tree in one of the rooms, with half naked men and women going around it in costume, while fireworks are also let off over the frozen lake outside…

"A Casa" (The House), 1997Bartas’s personal film engages us with little other than sumptuous visuals until the very end, but it leaves us engaged more vigorously after the final credits start rolling. While the eponymous house most definitely signifies Lithuania itself, we are left to our own devices to freely interpret who the ‘mother’ is and what everything else represent. Whether one sees this as cinema at its very best or at its most pretentious, it is certainly worthy of a challenge and an opinion. And who knows, if approached with the right frame, one might also find it illuminating. Highly Recommended Viewing..!

Amazon.fr DVD Link [PAL]

 

The Nudity: Egle Kuckaite, Greta Sapkaite, and others
As the review indicates, there are several instances of nudity from younger residents in the house featuring children and teenage girls. The individual scenes feature Egle Kuckaite attending dinner in the nude, and Greta Sapkaite observing herself in the mirror. She appears again in the scene where the protagonist is caressed by several young women.

Egle Kuckaite, Greta Sapkaite, and others from the Sarunas Bartas film, "A Casa" aka "The House", 1997, Lithuania.

Egle Kuckaite, Greta Sapkaite, and others from the Sarunas Bartas film,
“A Casa” aka “The House”, 1997, Lithuania.

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“Morning Interim: Illicit Diagrams” [2017 Portugal, United Kingdom]

Ever the experimenter, João Paulo Simões loves to play with form and narrative in his films, and his ongoing anthology, “Morning Interim” is one such exercise that has generated interest from not only the art crowd, but also fellow artists in Portugal. His collaboration with veteran Portuguese actress Monica Calle in his second episode “Illicit Diagrams” was intriguing as well as fascinating. When I approached Simões for an interview, he was only too happy to share his thoughts.

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An interview with João Paulo Simões

João Paulo Simões

João Paulo Simões

 

Olga Fonseca in "Antlers of Reason" (2006)“Morning Interim” – could you tell us how you came up with the concept?
Morning Interim was originally conceived at around 2007 as part of a trilogy, of which “Antlers of Reason” (2006) was the first. But despite its encouraging reception, the project remained in financing limbo and other commissioned work began to get prioritised. I still wanted to revisit specific strands from “Antlers of Reason”, as it began to open up a greater scope for exploring something bigger and deeper, and to delve into a more frightening mystery. As an episodic series, I felt I could now recreate ritualised reflections of equally personal scenarios.

 

Monica Calle in "Morning Interim: Illicit Diagrams" (2017)Who is recording the ThalusCam? Will we get to see the people behind it?
The name is in reference to the fictional antlered god of pagan worship, Thalus. It’s been conceived, in the series, as a voyeuristic device that punctuates the stripped bare narrative. But it will be revealed as an underground analogue network that hijacks digital signals. A bit like the old days taking revenge on the impersonal nature of this world we all now inhabit. Yes, we will get to see who and what is behind it. Sort of half-the-way through the series: Episode 5, to be more specific.

 

Monica Calle and João Paulo Simões in "Morning Interim: Illicit Diagrams" (2017)You’d managed to rope in Monica Calle – still amazing after all these years in cinema, for the second episode of “Morning Interim”. Do you hope to feature similar high-profile actors in the remaining series?
There are a handful of roles to be cast still and I always want, first and foremost, to give the right role to the right person.
Yet, as a film buff, I do like to bring in a sense of heritage that an actor’s previous work immediately conveys. We have Anulka Dziubinska (from the 1974 exploitation classic, “Vampyres”) on board. I’m currently in talks with Emmanuelle Escourrou (of “Baby Blood” fame) whom I directed in the pilot episode of “Where Her Dreams End” (a 2011 series that never got picked). And I just re-opened negotiations with an actress from Walerian Borowczyk’s “La Bête”, which was a huge influence on “Antlers of Reason”.

 

Monica Calle in "Morning Interim: Illicit Diagrams" (2017)How did you convince Monica Calle to get involved in the film? What was her initial reaction?
I believe Monica watched a behind-the-scenes video, at first, in which actress/co-producer Luisa Torregrosa describes the creative process. Only then did she watch the first episode. She told me she was very taken by the minimalism; by how it all comes across so unmediated and singular. But what impressed her most was actually how the intimacy was handled.

 

Monica Calle in "Morning Interim: Illicit Diagrams" (2017)Was Monica Calle comfortable in participating in the explicit sex scenes, and was she concerned if it might affect her already significant mainstream film career?
She only went as far as to express how raw and therefore exposing the scenes were. But once she committed and mutual trust was in place, there was never any issue. You have to put the Portuguese avant-garde approach into perspective here. Despite (or precisely because of) its conservative Catholicism, creative individuals do tend to navigate incredibly daring waters. Monica’s stage output is probably the boldest being made in Portugal. And still, despite its experimental, visceral or explicit nature, she wins mainstream awards. For years, many often wondered when the two of us would work together. It has finally happened.

 

Erica Rodrigues in "Morning Interim: Illicit Diagrams" (2017)Most of the sex scenes depict sexual acts in elaborate detail, but they’re nevertheless ritualised rather than spontaneous. Was this a technical limitation, or are you trying to say something through this?
The ritualisation is not just deliberate, but crucial. The idea has always been to elevate such moments to mating rituals. Something purer, more animal and natural (hence the explicitness), but that rarely happens away from the cold gaze of the hidden cameras of the ThalusCam network. Going back to your second question, the key here is the “recording”. The notion that private moments in time are crystalised, mirrored and juxtaposed – with an ulterior motive.

 

Though this site focuses predominantly on nudity as it appears in the integral version of films, the scenes themselves often enter into the sexual realm, as if it is almost inevitable. Is it because directors are merely trying to keep up with society, or are filmmakers themselves setting the agenda?
That’s a very interesting point. And I think it ties in with the way in which progressively more honest and therefore explicit depictions of sexuality have been incorporated into both independent and mainstream Cinema.
My perspective is that the art form has matured sufficiently now. As far as “setting the agenda” goes, I really think that every film that is made is a reflection of the times in which it was produced, but I do believe that films also shape the cultural discourse. They feed off each other.

 

Are people more obsessed and worried about sex these days than at any time in human history?
There’s a growing appetite for depictions of sexuality, for sure. The level of obsession is up to the individual and I reckon the impulse to gaze is as old as the human race itself, but there is a greater thirst for seeing images that reveal more and more. Again, it’s the digital age we live in. The immediate accessibility of explicit content generates a taste for it. You have to feed “the retina of the mind’s eye”, to borrow a phrase coined by Cronenberg.

 

What can we look forward to in the third episode?
Episode 3 will bring back the horror element to the foreground. Luisa Torregrosa’s Mystery Woman will return and Nature will also take a big part. It’s entitled “Re-Enactments” for a reason. The notion of actors playing a role within a role is part of the deconstructive quality that I intend to bring to the form, to the narrative and to the actual rituals.

 

How has your crowdsourcing progressed so far, and how many episodes have you lined up for the Morning Interim series? Have you considered making the series into a full-length feature?
The idea to turn the project into a series was a means to rescue it. The pilot episode was enabled and partially funded by Spain’s Torregrosa Producciones, but we didn’t know where to go from that point – despite being immensely proud of it. We’re well aware of the experimental, abstract quality of the project and wanted to preserve that by all means.
It soon became apparent that the slow-burning narrative needed to span eight episodes, which makes it even trickier to fund. But, we’re getting there – very gradually.
Frontier Media established The Vault of Alternative Cinema, as a means to centralise access to current and previous output. The approach has been to have the pay-per-view of the existing episodes (along with access to other films available to stream or buy on DVD) exclusively fund the production of the series. This does slow down the process, but, in an odd way, suits the unfolding of the mystery. Online patronage has also started contributing monthly to production costs. We hope that the support grows in time, so we can shorten the waiting period between episodes for fans of Morning Interim.

 

Streaming Link for Film | Become a Patron

 

 

The Nudity: Monica Calle, João Paulo Simões, and Erica Rodrigues
The film depicts variously interpreted scenes featuring explicit sex and nudity. Apart from Monica Calle and Erica Rodrigues who play a case worker (therapist) and cleaner (maid) respectively, the director himself appears in a starring role in the scenes concerned. Recommended Viewing..!

Monica Calle, João Paulo Simões, and Erica Rodrigues from the film, "Morning Interim: Illicit Diagrams" (2017, Portugal).

Monica Calle, João Paulo Simões, and Erica Rodrigues from
“Morning Interim: Illicit Diagrams” (2017, Portugal).

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A brief review: “A Costa dos Murmúrios” [2004 Portugal]

Monica Calle in The Murmuring Coast (2004), PortugalMargarida Cardoso’s maiden feature “A Costa dos Murmúrios” [Eng. Title: The Murmuring Coast] uses the backdrop of Portugal’s early struggles at holding on to its empire in Africa, to study a couple’s relationship that begins full of promise but falters as they get to know each other better.

Beatriz Batarda and Filipe Duarte in "A Costa dos Murmúrios" (2004)Set in the early sixties, we see a newly wed Evita (Beatriz Batarda) arrive at ‘picturesque’ Mozambique to join her husaband Luis (Filipe Duarte), a mathematician-turned colonel serving in the Portuguese Army. As she adjusts to the tropical climate, she notices that Luis had lost all the passion he once had for mathematics.

Monica Calle, Filipe Duarte, and Adriano Luz in "A Costa dos Murmúrios" (2004)She’s nevertheless made to feel at home by Luis’s captain Jaime (Adriano Luz) and his wife Helena (Monica Calle). Evita also notices that Luis looks up to Jaime and often makes an extra effort to please his superior. This becomes disturbingly evident during a hunting safari where Luis tries to outdo Jaime in ‘exercising his fingers’ against a hapless wildlife using a Kalashnikov rifle.

Monica Calle and Beatriz Batarda in "A Costa dos Murmúrios" (2004), Portugal;But a more sinister side to their camaraderie, and by extension Portugal’s colonial policies, is revealed when Evita spends time with Helena after their respective husbands go away on an army operation. The brutality against natives, it seems, is just another symptom of attitudes that they’ve willingly adopted from a bygone era where chauvinism and patriarchy is the norm, and duelling and honour killings, par for the course. A modern and liberated Evita struggles to come to terms with their world…

Beatriz Batarda in "A Costa dos Murmúrios" (2004, Portugal)Cardoso uses a subject close to her heart – Portuguese colonialism in Africa, and through a documentary-eye, places her protagonist as a helpless bystander witnessing events from a distance – with the gathering clouds of resistance outside as much a reflection of her tumult within. It is an ambitious film, but it also succeeds to a large extent with its soul-searching. Recommended Viewing..!

Amazon DVD Link [PAL]

 

The Nudity: Beatriz Batarda and Monica Calle
The film features some nudity, with Beatriz Batarda in a scene vaguely reminiscent of Kristin Scott Thomas from “The English Patient”. Monica Calle is briefly nude while emerging from the bath, and is later seen disrobed and left lying on the floor.

Beatriz Batarda and Monica Calle from Margarida Cardoso's drama, "A Costa dos Murmúrios" aka "The Murmuring Coast" (2004, Portugal)

Beatriz Batarda and Monica Calle from Margarida Cardoso’s drama, “A Costa dos Murmúrios” aka
“The Murmuring Coast” (2004, Portugal).

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To reconcile: “Lejos del mar” [2015 Spain]

Elena Anaya and Eduard Fernández in "Lejos del mar" (2015)Imanol Uribe has frequently dealt with the subject of ETA and Basque nationalism in his films before – understandably so, since he also hails from the region. His latest thriller “Lejos del mar” [Eng. Title: Far from the Sea] too is no different and is set against a similar premise.

Elena Anaya in "Lejos del mar" (2015, Spain)The film begins with former ETA separatist Santi (Eduard Fernández) arriving in Almería to meet a friend – he’d just been released after serving twenty two years for murdering a military officer in the presence of his eight year old daughter. The daughter, Marina (Elena Anaya), is now a doctor at the same hospital where Santi’s friend is undergoing treatment. Marina faints after recognising him, and Santi, not knowing that she’s the girl who saw him murder her father, carries her back into the hospital.

Elena Anaya and Eduard Fernández in "Lejos del mar" (2015, Spain)After recovering from her shock, Marina drops her son at her mother’s house in Madrid, picks up her father’s handgun and shoots Santi when she catches him alone on the beach. Having fled the scene, Marina returns to the beach after some deliberation to see Santi still breathing, but unconscious. She drags him back into his cabin to treat him for his wounds, and nurses him back to health.

José Luis García Pérez and Elena Anaya in "Lejos del mar" (2015, Spain)When Marina’s journalist husband Andrés (José Luis García Pérez) is informed of Santi’s release from prison and his arrival in Almería, he tries to track him down since he is also aware of Marina’s tragedy. When he informs Marina about Santi’s release, her ambivalent reaction disappoints him a little, but he nevertheless notices a change in her general attitude, and coupled with the increasing frequency of her ‘night shifts’, begins to suspect that she might be having an affair…

Elena Anaya and Eduard Fernández in "Lejos del mar" (2015)Uribe has dealt with the pathology of hate in some of his earlier films, but this one is slightly different in exploring issues bordering on Stockholm Syndrome, and it also directly addresses reconciliation, which could be a painful process. Obviously, Elena Anaya had the most challenging part in the film, but she performs impeccably as ever. While it is a low-budget thriller, it is still well made and some shot selections are an interesting departure from Uribe’s earlier films, particularly the long shot of Anaya’s character dragging a heavy and motionless Santi back into the cabin. We’re also shown an Almería completely devoid of its ubiquitous tourist-brochure glamour (or Spaghetti Western dustiness) – it might just as well be some bleak seaside in northern Spain. The taut thriller is certainly Recommended Viewing..!

Amazon DVD Link [PAL]

 

The Nudity: Elena Anaya and Verónika Moral
Elana Anaya is nude when she emerges from the sea, and Verónika Moral, who play’s Santi’s sister, is also briefly nude when she goes skinny dipping. There’s also a brief sex scene featuring Elena Anaya.

Elena Anaya from the Spanish thriller, "Lejos del mar" aka "Far from the Sea" (2015)

Elena Anaya from the Spanish thriller, “Lejos del mar” aka “Far from the Sea” (2015).

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