Thursday, September 26, 2013

Women in Film: Hédi Temessy

By Olivia Maria Hărşan

Special Birthday Post. Today is my birthday and I've decided to do a post on a wonderful actress from Hungary, Hédi Temessy (1925-2001).

I have developed a fascination for this actress since studying the films of Béla Tarr whom she worked with on his films, Almanac of Fall (1984) and Damnation (1987). There is something so mysterious about her gaze and her piercing crystal eyes. Hédi Temessy was an ethereal beauty with a fierce talent of acting.

In her younger years.

Still from Almanac of Fall (1984) Béla Tarr

Still from Almanac of Fall.

Still from Damnation (1987) Béla Tarr

Monday, September 23, 2013

Director's Profile: Mara Trifu

By Olivia Maria Hărşan

Mara Trifu is an emerging filmmaker in Romania whom I hope to see more work from in the next few years. Information on her background is scarce, in fact, all I managed to stumble across is that she is a visual artist from Transilvania who lives and works in Bucharest. 

I recently saw her documentary short Japanese Fig Tree/ Gutuiul Japonez (2011) which competed at the annual Gopo Awards in 2012, but unfortunately did not gain the attention it deserves. This is a stunning picture from composition, editing, sound and right down to the narrative itself. It focuses on a 90 year old woman, Madame Grosu, who lives alone and shows us the daily tasks she is faced with, for example, the effort of reaching up high to water her plants and providing for a bunch of abandoned kittens that "some Turkish fella" left her with . She admires her backyard and the beautiful plants that dwell there, in particular a Japanese Fig Tree. There is also a personal story that she reveals to us. She talks of the regret she is faced with everyday because of final words that were spoken and/or unspoken towards a late loved one. Trifu presents a sad, but heartfelt and beautiful picture of life where the focus on sunlight and chiaroscuro-like shadow become a metaphor for time, life and death. 

Trifu has directed another short titled You Can't Hide Love From the Gypsies (2011), but I am waiting desperately for more. It's absolutely exciting to see women filmmakers emerging in Eastern Europe.

View a snippet of the film here.

Stills from the film.

Mara Trifu with her actress.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Film Review: Outbound/Periferic (2010) Bogdan George Apetri

By Olivia Maria Hărşan

I finally sat down and watched the Romanian film Periferic. At the time of its release, I'd heard only good things about it, particularly Ana Ularu's exceptional role as Matilda, a rough-edged mother with a broken heart. The film begins with her release from prison, where it is understood she was serving time for a crime she did not commit. Matilda is on parole but her plan is to find her long lost son, Toma (Timotei Duma) and flee the country. She locates an ex-lover, Paul (Mimi Branescu), who is also Toma's biological father, but finds that he has placed him in an orphanage. Money matters between Matilda and Paul end in a violent way - Paul is some kind of mafioso middle man. Matilda manages to scramble away with Paul's money, or rather what he owed her for doing time. Needless to say, she finds her son but the ending is a sad one. 

What stood out for me the most in this film is the emphasis on heat. You know how some people discuss the concentration of summertime heat in New York as if its some kind of phenomenon?... Think Spike Lee's Crooklyn (1994)... Well the same goes for Bucharest - 45 degrees of asphalted metropolis. It seemed as though the heat was concocting a maddening vibe that conjoined all the characters into some kind of abysmal warp. There was no ending to this story, only a perpetual circle of tragic events. 

There were also some impressive cinematographic moments. The sun shining directly into the camera as we are introduced to Matilda's brother Andrei (Andi Vasluianu) and the tracking shot of Andrei's taxi, filmed from behind the vehicle as it swerves into a petrol station, thus indicating a sense of awkwardness that is about to unfold between Matilda and her sister-in-law, Lavinia (Ioana Flora). But there is also the eerie shot of Toma's shadow as a passenger looking outwards onto the surrounding fields. It captures a sense of ghostliness that begs the question, was he even real? 

Film Preview: Carmen (2013) Doru Nițescu

By Olivia Maria Hărşan

Doru Nițescu's film Carmen (2013) is another instance of dramatic brilliance to derive from New Romanian Cinema. The story details the psychological burden of a mother, Mariana (Rodica Lazăr), dealing with her young daughter's, Carmen (Iulia Lupascu), life-threatening illness. In the midst of the tragedy comes another grim depiction of Romania's corrupt health care system - something notoriously highlighted in Cristi Puiu's The Death of Mr Lazarescu (2005). Both actresses have been lauded for their performances, both on a national scale and throughout Europe, and the film has received an array of critical success at the Sarajevo Film Festival in August.

See the film preview here.

Watch the director speak about his film here.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Women in Film: Ewa Pokas

By Olivia Maria Hărşan

Information on the Polish actress Ewa Pokas is unfortunately lacking while her filmography is only a short list of Polish features, however, she certainly deserves a mention for her role in Krzysztof Kieślowski's Camera Buff/Amator (1979). The photos below derive from the Polish Film Archive.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Fashion in Film: Innocent Sorcerers/ Niewinni Czarodzieje (1960) Andrzej Wajda

By Olivia Maria Hărşan

Starring Krystyna Stypulkowska in the role of Pelagia and Tadeusz Lomnicki as Bazyli.

 Notice how the colours of their attire are always contrasted to each other.

Interesting how this dress sits loosely on Krystyna. This particular style and cut of dress usually appeared tight on the women who wore them.

High top knickers - ever so flattering on every gal of every shape.

The chain around her neck echoes the detail of the architecture in the background.

Detail emphasised in the lapels of his knit.

Terry cloth texture of dressing gown is so sharp in this image.