FNC 11′ – Unbearable Lightness In Scandinavia – Part One: Oslo, August 31st

It was a pure coincidence to watch Oslo, August 31st and Volcano on the same day.

They both open with a montage, shortly followed by a suicidal attempt of the protagonist. They both depict a solitary journey of a lonely man, which is not a surprise if the main character wants to die at the beginning of a story. And both directors, Joachim Trier and Rúnar Rúnarsson, are young, precise and already winners of international film awards.

Oslo, August 31st is Trier’s second feature effort, following his Karlovy Vary Film Festival winning Reprise. The opening montage including documentary footage accompanied by voiceovers entails seemingly diverse and individual memories about urban Oslo. To establish the background where this story takes place seems to matter more, and in this case, it does.

34-year-old Anders is almost finishing his rehabilitation program. Filled with remorse, he returns to his hometown, Oslo, for a job interview. He takes the opportunity to revisit his past, while searching for a reason to live off. Loosely based on French writer Pierre Drieu La Rochelle’s “Le feu follet”, Oslo, August 31st is a trail to despair.

Through the handheld camera and calculated framing, we follow Anders strolling like a hurt animal in sparse Oslo. His supposedly best buddy, now a married man with a daughter leading a normal middle-class life, can’t seem to relate to his pain. Surrounded by the trivial conversations of people in a hip restaurant, Anders appears to be an outsider. During his interview, he confesses to his addictions and shamefully dismisses himself. His ex-girlfriend refuses to answer his calls. Even his sister shuns him. One man can’t feel lonelier when his whole world has moved on without him.

A second time collaborator with Trier, Anders Danielsen Lie, convincingly portraits the vulnerable protagonist. You sympathize his pain but the sobriety that he always delivers makes you a clear-minded commentator, that his behaviour is self-inflicted and there is still “hope” to reverse every wrong he’s done in his life, until he returns to his dealer. The inevitable becomes the destiny. To kill his character, Trier is clever enough to insert a monologue of Anders telling about the free-spirited upbringings from his unseen parents, like a primal flame burning down his last bridge.

The movie reaches its climax as Anders returns to his parents’ empty house, which is soon to be sold on account of his financial disability. He sits down at the piano, picks up some sheet music, and starts to play. To this point, it is fully established that even a talented and once ambitious young man from a well-off middle-class family can still fail to reinstall his purpose of existence after recovering from the decadent lifestyle he chose. There, he has lived.

It ends with the montage of places Anders has been: the streets, the city pool, the park bench, and the lake he tried to drown himself. They are empty now but still exist. By not showing Anders’ parents, Trier confronts with the generation of 30-something. With everything it can offer, does a city shape us? Yes. Does one person shape the city? From Trier’s point of view, yes and no.

In a sense, Anders is consumed by the city. However, though it’s not hard to imagine how he got into the mess at the first place, we can only see the aftermath and it is a downward spiral from the beginning. Compared to Anders’ friends and family, his tale is just one possibility, but a cautionary one. Who says middle class has no capacity for tragedy?

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‘I’m a whore,” Hugh Jackman says

One of the great Australian exports best known as his on-screen persona of the claw-handed anti-hero proves once again his triple threat talent. With his passion towards musical theatre, Hugh Jackman runs his one-man show in San Fransisco and now Toronto.

Jian Gomeshi of Q sat down with him and asked about Hollywood type-cast stigma, sexuality, and his off-screen self, who loves to entertain with song and dance.

Note: The headline is a quote from this interview. Mr. Jackman said it as a joke, so did I.

2010 in Films

That’s it. Finally done. As I look back the whole year, 2010 actually is filled with some good, plenty awful, and many great surprises. A huge proportion of my gratitude goes to The Nouveau Cinema Film Festival in Montreal, which knocked me over with Gaspar Noé’s visual masterpiece, Tetsuya Nakashima’s highly textualized psycho thriller, and of course, the Palm d’or winning Uncle Boonmee by Apichatpong Weerasethakul.

For me, the first two places are really a tie. The retrospective noir portrait of Michael Haneke that speaks of the timelessness of evil and the moral tale of the social medium that changes our time and forever by David Fincher are both extraordinarily brilliant. I decided to put the white band on the top for its breathtaking density and Haneke’s outstanding vision.

As shameful as I am, I still have to admit the reason that the list came out this late was due to me missing Incendies while it was playing in Montreal theatre so I had to catch it up in Taipei.

My 30 Best Films of 2010 (from Jan.01 to Dec.31 screened in cinemas of Montreal)

  1. Das weisse Bande by Michael Haneke
  2. The Social Network by David Fincher
  3. Un prophète by Jacques Audiard
  4. Carlos by Olivier Assayas
  5. Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives by Apichatpong Weerasethakul Continue reading

Melancholy Op.1

Since what age do we start to look back at our lives and intentionally drag out something again just try to relive it again? Are we built to do such thing spontaneously or at some point along the way we pick up this ability, or, desire? Does it mean anything metaphysically for us human to regain this past feelings? Are we always sentimental about the past things, even when it was a happy memory?

I got off the bus one stop earlier just to make the detour to pass by the flat I used to share with him. Too many memories. Too much past to neglect. The light of the living room was not on. It’s only 11p.m. on a Saturday evening. I wonder who is living there right now? Did they change any decor? There are certainly some new cafes and bars in the neighborhood. I wonder if the new tenant is as happy as we once were.

30 Favorite Albums of 2010

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Arcade Fire The Suburbs
The National High Violet
Yeasayer Odd Blood
Deerhunter Halcyon Digest
Beach House Teen Dream
Broken Social Scene Forgiveness Rock Record
Pantha du Prince Black Noise
Crystal Castles Crystal Castles
Flying Lotus Cosmogramma
Antony and The Johnsons Swanlights

Karkwa Les Chemins de verre
These New Puritans Hidden
Caribou Swim
Sufjan Stevens The Age Of Adz
Villagers Becoming A Jackal
Vampire Weekend Contra
Janelle Monae The ArchAndroid
LCD Soundsystem This Is Happening
Joanna Newsom Have One On Me

Junip Fields
Foals Total Life Forever
Hot Chip One Life Stand
Angus and Julia Stone Down The Way
Robyn Body Talk
A Sunny Day in Glasgow Autumn, Again
Menomena Mine
Owen Pallett Heartland
The Besnard Lakes The Besnard Lakes Are The Roaring Light
Rôyksopp Senior
Amon Tobin Monthly Joint Series

My 2009 A to Z

Before the other Best of 2009 lists come up, I quickly rewind this year and come up this short list with my reflex.
It indicates what has occupied my mind the most, but may or may not represent my preference (most likely it is a yes).

A lexandre Rioux – for simply making my life better 🙂

B at For Lashes – for rotating in my head for over half year

C inema & Cast & Crew – for I can’t stop thinking of and being grateful to

D aylight – for giving me a hard time while filming

E migration – for making my life a bit more complicated

F antastic Mr. Fox – for being the best animation of 2009!

G lee – for bringing so much joy and joyful flashbacks

H ugo & Ossie – for your awesomeness!

I nglorious Bastards – for such a perfect integrity from an auteurist director

J ean-Paul Corbeil – for your grace and talent

K illers – for giving me that beautiful one night at Centre Bell

L imits of Control – for an incredible filmic surprise

M oney & Mentality – for keeping me on the ground…

N adia – for always being there for me!

O ndrej Hudecek – for your vision and spirit

P irates of Penzance – for resurrecting my singing career somehow

Q tv – for the quality and the intellect

R oad, The – for amazing me out of expectation (I don’t care about the critics)

S elf – HA!

T rebas Institute – for keeping me busy basically

U p – for once again the good old moral story and most effective montage of the year

V ox Box – for lighting a fire in my heart and brain

W here The Wild Things Are – for the long anticipation and final let-down…

X -Files – for the time and fun shared with Alex

Y earning – to go home…

Z ero – “can you climb higher?”

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Rising Brits

A beautiful super 8 montage of 11 rising British actors and actresses.

Surprised to see Nicholas Hoult (About A Boy) is all grown up. Also Harry & Luke, the twin of Treadaway (Brothers of The Head) become so different.

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