A Restored classic from Bologna and an Iranian Turkey in Competition

By Alex Deleon www.filmfestivals.com 

Memories of Underdevelopment, Cuba, 1968.

Memories of Underdevelopment, Cuba, 1968.

Director, Tomas Gutierrez Alea: Restored B/w print from the Cineteca di Bologna with an introduction by Martin Scorcese on the daunting restoration process.
Stars Sergio Corrieri and Daisy Granados as the mismatched lovers of the tale. Landmark Cuban film set in Havana between 1961, when many Cubans fled the country after the Fidel Castro led communist takeover, and the Missile Crisis of late 1962 –in between the foiled Bay of Pigs invasion. Against this backdrop of pivotal historic events the film follows the adventures and misadventures of a handsome upper class divorced man of 38, Sergio, who chose not to leave because he owned property and was not politically involved during the revolution. His seduction of and affair with an attractive seventeen year old girl, Elena, becomes the focal point of the narrative leading up to a trial when he drops her and is accused of rape and breach of promise by her family but is acquitted by the court.
All throughout the tale he makes wry observations on the state of underdevelopment of the newly communized island country and the lack of culture of his youthful girlfriend.
One long section covers a visit to Ernest Hemingway’s former Cuban residence with satiric comments on his obsession with big game hunting. The narrator remarks that the macho American author only killed animals to keep from killing himself — which eventually he did.
During the missile crisis we hear a lengthy clip of president Kennedy’s voice describing in detail the threat to the hemisphere posed by Russian nuclear weaponry on the way to the island.and the need to do whatever is necessary to squelch this threat. Along the way we are treated to a remarkable clip of young bristly bearded Fidel Castro in one of his fiery speeches enjoining the Cuban people not to be intimidated by the American colossus to the north as we see Russian tanks being unloaded in Habana.

This first big film from Communist Cuba was both a savvy critique of the new hammer and sickle order and a cunning portrait of Cuban society at this crucial historical juncture. Aside from its historic importance and near documentary feel Alea’s picture works extremely well simply as a thotny love story and the drama of an attractive middle aged intellectual caught up in political events above and beyond his control. Memories of Underdevelopment opened the door and set the tone for the development of a small but feisty and colorful Cuban film industry, one of the best in Latin America, which continues to turn out interesting movies right up to the present day.

This was followed by the latest offering from the best known Iranian director, Asghar Farhadi, whose highly acclaimed family drama, “A Separation” won he foreign language Academy Award in 2014.

"Forushande" (The Salesman, or The Client, in French)

“Forushande” (The Salesman, or The Client, in French)

 

His new film, “Forushande” (The Salesman, or The Client, in French) presented here in the official Competition section, is an extreme shaggy dog story that is not going to inspire anything but yawns and seat squirming. Crisply lensed as are all Iranian films these days and earnestly if unconvincingly acted, this is a tedious tale about a married couple involved in a small theater production in Teheran of Arthur Millers Death of a Salesman — whence the original title. They have to move into a makeshift apartment when the building where they originally lived in is threatened with collapse at the beginning of the picture.
The apartment they temporarily take over formerly belonged to a prostitute, it turns out, who received her clientele there.
One night a former client comes up for some fun and games but is so miffed to find the innocent actress wife there instead of the delicious whore he desires that he clubs her over the head from behind and sends her to the hospital. (whether he did anything else is not made clear but is perhaps vaguely hinted at as a collateral damage possibility). She is now in a state of constant angst because she didn’t actually see her assailant, is too ashamed to make a police report, and fears he may return.
The rest of the picture is devoted to the determined
husband’s tracking down of the unknown assailant who perturbed his wife to the point where she is now a nervous wreck. However, Dirty Harry he is not and his vengeance when he finds his man will get very lumpy to say the least. This is the kind of picture that starts out okay but gets more and more meaningless as it crawls along for two tiresome hours to a soggy conclusion — and only keeps you from walking out because you want to find out who this mysterious attacker will turn out to be — and then it leads to a lengthy lethargic moralizing letdown, the point perhaps being vaguely made that vengeance isn’t always worth the effort it takes to achieve. Mushy muddled morality at best. i expected more from a director of Asghar’s established stature, but then, as the Japanese say; even monkeys sometimes fall from trees.

Ps: Monday.
At the closing ceremony on Sunday night the pitiful script of “Forushande” was incompréhensibly accorded the Best Scenario prize and Lead actor Shahab Hosseini received the “Masculine Interpretation” award for his sincere effort in a losing cause.
Something must have been gained in translation from the original Persian.

 

By Alex De Leon

http://www.filmfestivals.com

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