Rundskop (2011) (Bullhead)

New Belgian movie by Michaël R. Roskam. It touches the subject of the hormone mafia, which is a sensitive topic here in Belgium.

STORY

The story centers on Jacky Vanmarsenille, a cattle farmer in Limburg, that deals in hormone induced cattle. Together with a friend veterinarian, he is taking part in a possible deal to do business with a shady beef handler of West-Flanders. But he senses that something’s not right with this beef handler… that the deal is a dodgey one.

At the same time, the police are investigating the murder of one of their investigators, who was known to be after the hormone maffia. Diederick, an informant to the police, works for the beef handler who is responsible for the cop murder.

It is when the beef handler and Diederick meet Jacky and the veterinarian to meet as to discuss the deal, that Jacky takes us back to when he was a kid. Back then, Diderick and Jacky were best friends and hung out at Jacky’s father’s farm. Untill that one day…

OPINION

I really liked the movie. It is dramatic and it takes you completely in the life of Jacky in a very profound way. I was intrigued by this character that is huge and raw.

I thought this was really a movie just on the hormone mafia and what had been in the news a few years back, but that was just the backdrop to the story. It really is mainly on Jacky… described by the police as Bullhead.

http://rundskop.be/

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La tourneuse de pages (2006)

Last night I saw this picture on the big screen: La tourneuse de pages, or The page turner. It’s a French movie from 2006, with a Belgian actress in the lead: Déborah François.

A talented girl, Mélanie Prouvost  (François) attends a try out to get into the conservatory. She is a very talented piano player, but during the entry exam, she gets distracted by one of the judges, Ariane Fouchécourt (Catherine Frot) – an accomplished concert player, who give out an autograph to an admirer during her exam.

Failing this exam, she decides to never play the piano again.

10 years later, as Mélanie finishes her internship at a law firm, she accepts her boss’ proposition to help out during the holidays and take care of his son, while his wife, a piano concert player, needs to rehearse for an upcoming radio concert…*wink wink*

Very nice movie. Captivating from the beginning till the end. Looks like a very innocent and easy-going story, but, oh my, quite the contrary. Déborah François, with her poise, has a way of suddenly, by a simple look of the eyes and mild gesture, go from an innocent looking girl into a slightly scary stalker. (Though she doesn’t actually play a stalker…)

The vengeance of Mélanie is a subtle one but a very effective one indeed.

Though I’m not disclosing much, because I really don’t want to spoil it for anyone who has not yet discovered this film, it is a perfect vengeance story. With a bitter-sweet after taste. At least, that is what I experienced when leaving the theatre.

Unlike IMDB, I give it a 9/10.

Altiplano (2009)

PLOT
The movie is about 2 main stories that intertwine: Turubamba, a village in Peru (the Andes) where a girl called Saturnina is about to marry her love Ignacio; but also about Grace and Max. Grace is a war photographer who came back from Iraq, where she was forced to take a picture of her guide/friend being shot before her eyes. She hasn’t been able to sleep since that event. Her husband, Max, is set to leave to Peru to work as an eye-surgeon.
The stories become linked due to a mercury spill that has contaminated the village, bringing forth health issues and death. When the doctors at the nearby medical station come to help, they are met with outrage.
MISC
Altiplano actually means “high plain” in Spanish.
The imagery is filled with a lot of symbolism, which makes it a surreal film. You see masked men throughout the landscape, pictures in the water, shots of Saturnina as if on a different plain and there is even a blind man repairing a broken statue of the Virgin Mary.
What I fear is, and it was the case for me, is that the symbolism that is portrayed is linked to Peruvian culture. I read an article last week where the directors stated that some of the symbolism had been put ad lib after learning a bit of the local culture and talking to the locals. So that is unfortunate for me, because as beautiful as the imagery is, I feel I have been missing out on some of the meanings.
OPINION
Difficult one. It is really a either you love it either you’re not convinced kind of movie. I liked it. Not loved it. It is a nice story and the images are beautiful. You’d like to take a plane to Peru when you see the landscape.
The acting is strong, but the story might have been more powerful to keep you locked to the screen. That’s what is missing. But overall, I enjoyed it.

Brussels Film Festival 2009

It’s that time of the year again: festivals are lining up. And not just music ones but movie ones as well.

The Brussels Film Festival is around the corner, and even though I do not know much on the programme, I will have 9 days of festival to take a chance to get to know them.
International movies galore, competitions, awards … the thing is almost in place for almost 60 avant-premières to watch. I would much like to attend the open air screening, that will be held outdoors (and that the weather will be on it’s best as well). Cause I’m so very curious how it will be like.
 
Wat is fun is that every night, a country is of the honour. So 9 days, 9 countries to dig into?
 
Last year I only went to see 1 movie, from Russia, called Nirvana. I posted on this and last years festival here. I really liked that movie (though some people left the theatre, still to my amazement). I do hope to be delighted and introduced to something new like that this time.
 
For people interested in Belgian movies, theres are the once who had their debut this year (also available on the website):
 
So let’s keep an eye on the website (if you are in Brussels, near Brussels and are able to go). The jury hasn’t been announced yet, but I doubt if I know anyone… not that familiar with international film scene (as I’d like to).

Unspoken (2008)

The new movie by Fien Troch is one about a couple, Grace and Lucas, whose daughter disappeared 4 years before.

The story takes a look at how the couple goes on, in some way living rather next to each other than with each other. The focus of the movies does not lie on finding the girl again. Though that is what is unspoken for Lucas, the father. To him she is still out there. He sees her in his dreams or when he lies awake at night. She suddenly stands there in the room, watching him, though it can’t be. He even goes out to see if she could be working the streets or in sleazy bars… He is not dealing and even takes off for a while leaving Grace with another disappearance to cope with.

Grace, however, does not tell Lucas how she is coping with having lost Lisa. In her mind she isn’t coming back. Though contradictory, she does hang out at the train station, just to look if she mightn’t spot her somewhere in the crowd. Both Grace and Lucas have this inability, it seems, to really be outspoken about how they feel. Does Grace feel love for Lucas? She can’t even say it back to him. Though it’s clear she needs him. But is need the same as love?

Lucas loves his wife, he tells her in a passionate moment, but on the other hand, he has been with another woman.

The film is strong and makes you focus on the couple because of the use of close-ups. Almost every shot makes it impossible for you to see what is going on in the background, because you are drawn to their faces, their subtle changes in features, emotions layed bare. That makes it a strong movie in my eyes because whether you like it or not, as a viewer, you feel the pain and hurt and awkwardness of the persons on screen.

I’d recommend this movie. It’s worthwhile.

Eldorado (2008)

© 2008 Versus production

Yesterday we went to the Styx (not the river, but the small cinema theatre) and saw Eldorado, a Belgian/French film that has been the Belgian entry at the 81st Annual Academy Awards (Oscars).

The movie is written, directed and acted by Bouli Lanners.

PLOT:
The story is about a guy named Yvan, a “vintage cars” sales rep, that discovers a burglar in his house when coming home at night.

Promising not to hit him, he lets the guy, looking like a junkie, go. Unable to leave things at that, Yvan feels sorry for the guy and promises to drive him back to his parents, as he asked. On this strange road trip they meet some pretty weird situations…

OPINION:
A surprise, this movie. Very natural looking, even though some encounters on the road are too strange for words. The film has a good feel and rhythm to it. And the music that accompanies it is very well-chosen. It has surrealism and darkness to it. And yet, it has several humorous moments too.

I am glad to see that Belgium is capable of producing some pretty fine movies. I had a dim view in the past, thinking my little country didn’t produce that many good things or was not in the same league as others as it came to make some worthy things. But that was wrong of me. The more I see of Belgian work, the more I am impressed with our subtleties, our inventiveness and capacity to make an interesting story come to live.

The end credit-song is sung by An Pierlé.

Here is a teaser I found on the Official Website. Sorry it is in French, but the teaser doesn’t contain that many lines, so it is very good for all language viewers. Enjoy.

Crazy Love (1987)

Tonight I watched for the second time Crazy Love by Dominique Deruddere, a Flemish-Belgian movie of 1987 which was a different kind of movie then previously was the case in Flemish cinema.

It is initially based on a short story by Charles Bukowski called The copulating mermaid from Venice, California. And before making the 90 minutes movie Crazy Love, that short story was what Deruddere wanted to turn into a short movie called Foggy Nights. But seeing that this would show the leading character of Harry Voss in a one dimensional way, Deruddere decided to put the concept of Foggy Nights as the end of the movie and create two other short stories of 2 other crucial moments in the life of Harry Voss to make the viewer understand why he has turned into the person he is in the last part of the movie.
This means you get 3 nights in the life of Harry Voss: age 12, age 17 and as an adult.
It is a bit of a controversial movie. The topics treated are not the easiest ones. And in the early ’80s in Flanders it was a bit of a risk to take as well.

Many of the actors in it were unknown back then and are now famous in Belgium (Michael Pas, Geert Hunnaerts, Josse De Pauw, Gene Bervoets…) . But to have used those actors then, unknown, not that experienced in movies  and others some odd characters, was a bold choice to have made.

Those who have taken part in this production are quite established in Flemish cinema and beyond. Some even teach at film schools in Brussels to generations to come. I mean Marc Didden, Willy Stassen, Ludo Troch…
I do think that from the 3 short movies, the 3 parts of Crazy Love, I prefer the first 2 stories. But that comes down to preferences. I just find it a pity Harry Voss turned out the way he did. It was a bit strange to see the people in this movie, who are established in Flanders, as young and unknown back then. I hardly recognized Marcel Van Tilt and Geert Hunnaerts is actually very surprising as the young Harry Voss.
The movie was exceptionally also distributed in North America.

and…ACTION!

These past couple of days I got glimps at what it is like to work on a set, thanks to my amazing film boy. Initially I only got some little peeks on how it went about. But yesterday I got to experience it not only as a quiet, “in the background” and very brief observer. I got to be one of the crew!

Being on a set, even of a short movie, still felt like something very out of the ordinary (positively meant). Cause you are trying in a sense to recreate life, recreate reality in an unreal way. Things get accentuated with a purpose. To tell something, to allude or to draw attention. Some things on the other hand are larger than life. Not acceptable in reality, but because it is on film it works. You can find it beautiful or intreaging. I guess that is the magic of it all. That with enough creativity, you can make almost anything you like. Tell anything you like. As long as you are consequent and logical in how you go about it.

cartoon: source http://www.trewaudio.com

To me, this was a very fun experience. I’m not going to lie. Shooting scenes is repetitious. You try out things; see if they work; see if you can get from the actors the intent or story-telling you imagine as a director/writer. It’s a very stressful experience in that sense. It’s also, but that’s my opinion, build on trust. Trust in the crew, trust in the script, trust in the director and trust in being able to help one another out. Being in close quarters many hours for several days is in itself a very unreal situation. You almost have no personal space but have to depend on one another as a team none the less, throughout moments of frustration. But when things are fun, shots are good and things work out, it’s a very special thing to experience.

right: It’s the type of mixer I got very familiar with during my sound-girl-day. My headphones and my little machine with the many flickering lights…
  

Now I know that my days as sound girl are just a “one-off”. That it is very possible that I will never ever set foot on a set as crew member again. I am still feeling pretty blessed I got to. My contribution might not have been big. But I was a link in the chain that made the project happen. (Dear lord, I do hope that the sound I mixed that day will not be the worst of the entire period of shooting!). Cause every member is vital: director of photography/cameraman, light guy, sound guy … and you are not necessarily pinned to that one job, you have to take consequences of your job in account and see, anticipate and solve problems as a group.

I don’t know. Maybe I’m just buzzed cause I got shared a very special experience like the creation of a short movie, but I liked every bit of it. The tough times, the fun times… everything.