Two more film reviews from Visions du Réel

Here are two more film reviews written by Karhy Morf on films that have been shown at Visions du Réel over the festival. If you missed seing any of these films, all is not lost, quite often they are shown again either on Swiss television or at the cinema later on in the year, if this should happen Living in Nyon will alert readers in advance.

Note: there are also some of the films already available in the festival “shop” which is in the Salle Communale over the festival period.   

The Table with the Dogs (Kathakali) by Cédric Martinelli and Julien Touati – Learning a traditional Indian dance style

Kathy says; “Ten years ago I saw my first Kathakali performance in southern India. The show was fascinating and like no other I had seen. This style of traditional dance-drama originated from Kerala in the seventeenth century. Dancing Bharatanatyam (south Indian classical dance) myself for four years in I can imagine the effort and hours that go into the training. I was surprised to see how well a foreigner was able to master the art in only a few years. After this movie you will understand that a good Kathakali dancer needs skill, immense concentration and physical stamina.”

Testing your body limits

 French choreographer and dancer Julien Touati joins the PSV Nathyasangham School in Kottakal (Kerala) for three years. He is the only white student in a class of young Indian men. Students can join the school at age thirteen and usually become accomplished dancers fourteen years later. Many of the youngsters that enter this type of school dedicate their lives to dance.

Training begins each day at 0:5:00a.m. The pupils begin by executing strenuous eye movements while they sit on woven mats on the cement floor. Then they smear oil on their bodies and cover themselves with a loincloth. One after the other they jump around the room like grasshoppers, doing stretches, arm movements, turning and twisting their bodies in all directions and running on the spot at breakneck speed. As they go through dance steps non-stop for hours sweat pours off their faces and bodies. Intricate mudras (hand gestures) are learnt tell a story on their own as well as a combination of eye and eyebrow movements. Their master joins in to show them what they have missed or still need to control. The teacher simply touches the students’ body to correct his position. The classes go on without much talking. The classes take place in a simple cement building. The rooms contain only the bare necessities. Wooden tables and benches are used to share a drink or meal.

Some learn to play musical instruments. A young boy learns to sings, trying to follow the tone of his teacher. When a mistake is made the he is immediately corrected and made to begin again until it is perfect. Each dancer must be ready to learn, listen and give his best from dawn to sunset. He is required to be obedient and work as long as the instructor feels is necessary.

Kathakali costumes are elaborate and prepared with care by skilled tailors. Each student takes at least an hour to do his make-up before a show. He paints his face, colours his eyes, puts on his jingles and the costume of the character he is going to represent. When the musicians are in place and the dancers are ready the show can begin.

Kathy also saw

“I was born on a spring day” – Road movie and discovering an absent father by Claudia Dessolis

“The solitary road journey takes us from Geneva to Marseille. The viewer gets a glimpse of unknown landscapes along the way, meets individuals learns about their lives. It is also the story about the film director’s absent father through a letter to his daughter. It takes some time to get used to the various different elements of the story. I enjoyed discovering the father through his letter and meeting the individuals on the road I often laughed at their stories. The movie also has you wondering what it means growing up with a father in jail.”  

From Geneva to Marseille

The film begins with a man’s voice, Claudia’s father, writing about his life from prison. He was born in Barbagia, Sardinia in 1942 in the interior mountain area of the impenetrable maquis (shrubland)which was also famous for its bandits and kidnappers. Many tried to conquer this region and after many efforts had no choice but to abandon it.

Claudia had her bag stolen which held many important personal contents that she will never get back again, like a picture of her sitting on her father’s lap. The trip stops to interview individuals that each have an interesting story to tell. The father’s voice comes in pieces, fragmenting the film, and goes on with his story.

She meets a variety of people on her journey from an elderly couple  that she speaks to through the closed gates of an old factory (she could not enter because of the presence of two guard dogs). The couple have lived there for the past twenty-three years to guard the factory which is located in the middle of nowhere. She then goes on to meet  a group of young people who sit  around and talk about why they don’t fit into the society anymore. A girl confides that she needs a lot of freedom and that her mother cannot offer enough. A man talks about eating a cat and how he made stew with it. It tasted exactly like rabbit stew.  A card reader shuffles the cards and lays them on the table. He reads Claudia’s fortune and tells her that she is beginning a new life with this movie and that it will never be the same again. She also meets a porno actor who freely explains what it is like having to perform well in front of the camera. He is scared with each film. Will he able to satisfy the woman and the film director? He does what the film director says. He enjoys what he does. These other individuals plus the children she meeets make this an interesting story.