Call Me by Your Name
Far and away, the best movie of the year.
A writer, filmmaker and a film critic since 1994, Pablo Villaça wrote for many Brazilian movie magazines. In 2002, he became the first Latin-American critic to be part of the Online Film Critics Society, being elected its first non-English speaking Governing Committee member in 2011. In 2001, he won a theater award for adapting an old children's fairytale for the stage and in 2005 he published his first book, "O Cinema Além das Montanhas". He is also currently the film critic of Cinema em Cena (www.cinemaemcena.com.br), the oldest Brazilian movie website (which he created back in 1997) and also teaches Film Theory, Language and Criticism in courses all over Brazil, teaching more than 1,500 students since 2009. In 2007, he was the only non-US film critic to be invited by the Museum of the Moving Image and The New York Times to participate on a week-long seminar on Film Criticism. In 2008, he directed his first short film, "Ethics" and in 2011, he wrote and directed his second short film, "Blind Death."
After discovering that a cancer will take her life within a few months, Ann, a young 23 years-old, makes two important decisions: to hide the disease from everyone (including her husband and their two young daughters) and to draw up a list of things she wants to do before her death - and her wishes include "making love to another man" and "causing someone to fall for me." This is the point at which "My Life Without Me," directed and written by Isabel Coixet, risks scaring away its viewers: the attitudes of Ann show, yes, selfishness and immaturity.
Mirrors and reflections have always been an obsession for filmmakers from all over the world - something that came as a result of the wealth of symbolism that they inspire, of course, but also of the psychological development all of us go through in order to recognize ourselves as individuals. (That led, for instance, to Jean-Louis Baudry's brilliant analogy of the film spectator as someone regressing to the "Mirror Stage" described by Lacan). From Buñuel to Hitchcock and from Fritz Lang to Tarkovsky, directors from different eras and different styles have used doubles as a thematic basis of one or more of their works -- but perhaps it has seldom been used so intensely and organically as in Darren Aronofsky's "Black Swan."
On the subway, the beautiful woman returns his gaze with a smile. Noticing the desire of the man before her, she crosses her legs suggestively, indicating an awareness of what's happening while waiting for a more direct approach. Gradually, however, something occurs to her: the man is not smiling nor showing any sign that he's enjoying the pleasure of mutual seduction, seeming only interested in establishing the possibility of sex before making any move. Suddenly, the situation becomes unbearably uncomfortable and the girl, not understanding exactly what goes on his mind, runs out of the car, fearing the cool evaluation of that look.
I remember my father's face, but not his voice. If I close my eyes I can perfectly see his expression of disapproval this one time when I was five years old, and another one of deep affection, at more or less the same time, but I cannot remember what he said - or even if said something - in each of those moments. What I do know beyond any doubt is that The Tree of Life, a masterpiece of filmmaker Terrence Malick, kindly led me to these reminiscences through his own philosophical reflection on human nature and our history on this planet. In this sense, the film represents a deeply religious experience for atheists, humanists, and especially film lovers.
Every and each year, I take a day to watch The Godfather trilogy back-to-back-to-back. If I manage to do that more than once a year, I feel even better about myself. I've been deeply in love with these films since I first discovered them so many years ago - and every time someone asks me what's my favorite movie (a question that a film critic hears quite often), I never hesitate before answering "The Godfather - all nine hours of it".
I'm not naive enough to believe that, at some point in history, the media political coverage (national or international) was in fact absolutely impartial. After all, controlling the typewriter and, later, computer keyboards were human beings with their own passions and ideologies - and it is clear that, even if they tried to be objective (those who tried, at least), they couldn't avoid filtering one fact or another by following their particular beliefs. Unfortunately, even though that occurs, I doubt that the level of indoctrination exhibited by professional journalism in History reached the alarming level of proselytism we have witnessed in recent years: while in United States 9/11 turned the media into a spokesperson of Bush's government, allowing him to lead the country to a war based on lies (something that many realized only a while ago), in Brazil large "journalistic" vehicles clearly embraced right-wing candidates during recent elections with no attempt whatsoever of masking their partisanship.
So, Cannes 2011: Malick was booed, Lars von Trier was banned and "Pirates of the Caribbean 4" was presented as hors-concours. If those are any indication, I predict "Deuce Bigalow, Male Gigolo 3" will win the Palm d'Or in 2012.
But in all seriousness, Cannes: banning von Trier? Really? Persona non grata for making some jokes (yes, in very poor taste, but jokes still) in the same year you had Mel Gibson over? The same Mel Gibson who made anti-semitic remarks, defended his father for denying the Holocaust and was recorded in a racist rant over the telephone?
In contemporary Hollywood, when a young actor becomes successful, he immediately tries to convert fame into power and money, investing his time in formulaic projects that guarantee great results at the box office and, thus, his ascension in the industry. It was not always like this - and we just need to observe Al Pacino's career to confirm that: after he became a hit with The Godfather, dozens of screenplays fell onto his lap, but he still focused on challenging and complex works in which he struggled against Hollywood's attempts to turn him into a heartthrob - projects such as A Dog Day Afternoon (in which he robbed a bank to pay for the sex reassignment surgery of his boyfriend, played by Chris Sarandon) and, of course, Serpico.
Absolute silence while the Warner logo, the name of the production company and the title of the movie are displayed on the screen. Suddenly, we see ourselves orbiting the Earth while a cacophony of radio and television transmissions confuses us by their sheer volume and sound pollution they cause. Then, slowly, we begin a journey throughout the universe that will last for the next few minutes, taking us far from our old and familiar planet while we experience a kind of time traveling as sounds of our atmosphere become older and older - until, eventually, we are involved by an oppressive silence and we realize that we traveled further than our oldest sound emission. And when we begin to realize the dimension of our surroundings - that goes much beyond our capacity for abstraction -, we are back to the starting point, returning to Earth through the portal represented by the blue and young eyes of Ellie Arroway, our leading character.
In "Certified Copy," his most recent movie, director Abbas Kiarostami adopts an intriguing and surprisingly efficient narrative strategy: after structuring the first half of the film emphasizing the realism and naturalism of the situation and of the dynamic between the characters, he changes the internal logic of the movie in the second half in a subtle but clear way, investing from then on in a tone that flirts with fantasy by establishing a fascinating game involving the main couple.
Written by the director himself, the movie begins with a lecture given by the writer James Milles (Shimell), who has just released a book that defends the importance of replicas of great works of art in a general way. Attending the event is the character played by Juliette Binoche, who owns a gallery and seems to be fascinated by Milles, offering to take him on a tour in Tuscany before he leaves Italy. Disagreeing with some aspects supported by the author in his book, she initiates a discussion while they visit museums and restaurants, until something curious eventually occurs and they start to act and talk as if they were a couple with 15 years of marriage.