Film Diary and Favorite Films of 2013

Lev Tolstoy (Sergei Gerasimov, 1984)

Lev Tolstoy (Sergei Gerasimov, 1984)

Looking back at my film diary for 2013; I managed to watch more than 398 films, wrote more than 96,000 words in my Film Diary, and as I always say, “Not bad, but could have been more”, it could have been more if it were not for my traveling and starting my study in UK.

As you might notice, from the end of January to June; more than %98 of the films come from Soviet Union, it was my year of discovering Soviet Cinema.

I saw many films in 2013, and I chose my favorites not based on the year the film was released, but rather, the year I saw it,  you might notice many films from 2012 making the list, for I saw them for the first time this year.

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                 Favorite Films of 2013/2012

Before Midnight (Richard Linklater,  2013)

Before Midnight (Richard Linklater, 2013)

Before Midnight (Richard Linklater,  2013) Richard Linklater’s Before/After films has a special personal meaning to me, but that is another story that one day I will share with you, the reason I mentioned it, is because; even before watching the film, I knew it would be my favorite film of the year, call that a personal bias, just as, looking back; Before Sunrise is my favorite of 1995 and Before Sunset of 2004, the call already in labelling Before Midnight as being part of “Before/After Trilogy“, only, it is too early to call the film as the last time we see Jesse and Céline on the screen, there sure has to be more. I can’t remember where I read about the five stages in life, it goes something like this; fertilization before birth, infancy, childhood, adolescence, and adulthood, and the eight stage of experience; exploring, life calling, focusing, working, excelling, mastering, transcending and regencies. Where are Jesse and Céline in Before Midnight? They are in adulthood, working and mastering, about to transcend, so there is still one stage to go. The first time we see Jesse is in the airport, saying goodbye to his son, and as he leave the airport, the camera follow, in a long shot wee see a woman leaning against a car, we don’t see her face clearly, as Jesse gets into the car, the camera pan to reveal in the backseat, two little girl, who is the woman with him? Can it be that Jesse had a son with Céline and got divorced? All that is answered in the next shot, as we see Céline and Jesse together, that is about the only mystery or a story or plot in Before Midnight, and the mystery is solved within the span of 30 seconds, for Before Midnight is a film about simple events captured in time, in examination of relationship of two people, who once were madly in love, now going into the mid-age, that love is in question, everything seem to have been improvised, even the other characters dialogue, it seem each one wrote their own line, like a Rohmer or a Bresson film, we see these characters as not just a mere fictional representation on the screen, but real people that we relate too, one reason, that the three  films already has a cult following, with Jesse and Céline taking an independent life on their own, out of the screen into reality. It is no wonder that sunny south Peloponnese peninsula is the location for the film, it is the sunny stage going by in their lives, before sunrise was in Vienna,  then before sunset in Paris, now to Greece, an as always; Linklater, intertwine in the place into the film, Greek culture and heritage; from making Dolma, to Greek Mythology, music, to reference to Elia Kazan, etc, even the title is spelled in Greek when first it appear on the screen. The dialogues and conversation between the characters become a imitation of everything that is relevant today, language is used independently, and you have more than two people tipping in, the conversations that once Jesse and Céline had now become unbearable when they are together, rather, their intimate conversation with each become reminiscence in nostalgia or an argument on their future worries, as the doubts come in whither they are still in love with each, or will be  into the future. Did I mention the constant references to Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, two of my idols, made me more relate to Jesse, rather cheesy, but true .

V Tumane aka In the Fog (Sergei Loznitsa, 2012)

V Tumane aka In the Fog (Sergei Loznitsa, 2012)

V Tumane aka In the Fog (Sergei Loznitsa, 2012) It is expected from a viewer to have a notion of what a war film should be; action and explosion, and when a viewer once in a while encounter a war film that is about the people stranded in the war, a character study of the few, the viewer at first become hostile to it, but a smart viewer, will slowly sink into the film, becoming a participant in a meditative watch, Sergei Loznitsa, among the greatest of recent young talent coming out of Russian cinema, has perhaps made one of the best Russian war film of recent times, if I could think of another war film coming out of Russia with such realism and intensity of pure brilliant, I have to go back to the Soviet era, to Elem Klimov’s timeless masterpiece; Come and See, ironically, both film are set during the German invasion of Belarus, with Come and See being on an epic scale of larger than life war film that grip the viewer from the start to the end, and In the Fog a simple character study, slow pace, long takes, haunting the viewer long after watching it. In the Fog is based of a short novella from the great, but unknown in the West, Vasil’ Bykaw, the film captures beautifully the lyricism in Byakaw’s writings onto the screen. Loznissa’s films are revisionist of the old patriotic Soviet notions of resistance, traitors, collaborators, and passives, similar to Aleksei German’s forgotten masterpiece; Road-Checkpoint, the forgotten ones whom a history remembers as the good or the bad, events black and white, the hero, the soldier and the collaborator, only in reality, nothing is as black and white, a lie become history, washing away the truth, there are those with consciences and those without it, the later is best fitted to survive, for it knows all the trickery to survive the war, and history remembers only the official story, the rest are forgotten, as it disappear into the fog.

 La grande bellezza aka The Great Beauty (Paolo Sorrentino, 2013)


La grande bellezza aka The Great Beauty (Paolo Sorrentino, 2013)

La grande bellezza aka The Great Beauty (Paolo Sorrentino, 2013) La grande bellezza opens with a quote from Céline’s Journey to the End of the Night, and like Céline’s writings, you are taking into a hyper pessimism of a nihilist journey, this time into the city of Rome, and everything that exist in Rome is of interest to Jep Gambardella, since he was uprooted from his home as a youth,  living in Rome, when the reality is too much to take, he takes into his fantasy, walking among the Roman ruins, he sees his vision of the city, in his imagination he creates his own stories and characters, Sorrentino’s camera become his vision, it fly in all direction, defying gravity in a circus of the holy, the profound and the vice, glamor, disgust, vulgar, the serious, the silly, a jungle of sound, noise and music, a wildlife inhabited by creatures feeding upon the past, none happy at the present of existence, with they only route taking out is escapism into the material world of desires, empty pleasures, with the new icon of worship replacing the old, a plastic surgeon is the new Pop to be worshiped and asked for miracles, pure Felliniesque. You got tribute to Italian masters; Fellini, Antonioni, Rossellini, Pasolini, etc, all over the place, just to name a few. La grande bellezza is a beautiful film, a grand cinematography, each scene like a painting on a vast canvas, it is among those films that must be watched on the big screen, otherwise, the collective experience of watching is lost. Jep who seem to be indifferent to everything, cold and distance, like the rest has a incurable wound of his past; the girl he once loved, and lost, his is living his old age, the passions he once had, and now are gone forever, he is lost, suppressing his most sincere emotions, but they show up now and then, as he become aware of himself thought the eyes of others. Rome’s new La dolce vita, the sweet life generation are old and grumpy, they are cold, not sweet anymore, lost in the vast spaces, reflecting upon their failures, they are full of emptiness, pretending to still live the fast life. A mediation on life, love, death, grief, faith, religion, loneliness, youth, old age, melancholic, nostalgia, and Art, or what is considered art with its meaningless and empty values like its creators, among the best scene; a frustrated little girl taking out his anger on a big canvas with paints, looking on are Europe’s biggest art critics and gallery owner, the nothings is given a value, therefore it become art, and she is an artist, earning millions, while the real art is locked up behind the doors. Many comparison has been made between La grande bellezza and Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, and all is to the point, it is modern day La Dolce Vita, with it grander tour de force journey.

Post Tenebras Lux aka Light after Darkness (Carlos Reygadas, 2012)

Post Tenebras Lux aka Light after Darkness (Carlos Reygadas, 2012)

Post Tenebras Lux aka Light after Darkness (Carlos Reygadas, 2012) In Spring of 2008, I first watched Reygadas’ Silent Light, I had to watch it three more times in the span of a week, and for a month, I could not stop talking about the films and recommending it to other friends, I had already seen both of earlier work of Reygadas; Japon and Battle in Heaven, and I thought little of them, but after seeing Silent Light, I eagerly waited for his next film, and it is five years later, gain, watching a new Reygadas film, Post Tenebras Lux, and like Silent Light, it has the power to shock you, to leave you for days reflecting upon the imagery, for it is hypnotic in it power. From the first image, of a Little girl, her first words are given to images and color that she sees, sound only she can hear, textures only she can feel, the film search for a style, for a narrative, from the world of childhood that consist of feeling through our senses, to the world of the adults, that consist of feeling and emotions, that become the story of Light after Darkness; light of childhood, and darkness of adulthood, both are elements of existence within nature, and it is nature that conquers both. There is a Father who seem to live in paradise, with a a happy family, only, just as he is gentle with his children, he is equally cruel to other being in nature, a Mother, who only care for her children, but something dark live within her, we never know what it is. Then there is something, someone,, it is always looking in, it live within the lens, distorting the reality, at times it appear, red with a tail, it is the mythical creature; devil, ready to corrupt the happy childhood that is full of mystery. The unpredictability of the film, the experimental use of narrative, the rapid shift and jumps between sequences, make it feel like watching a dream, a fantasy, or a mere recollections of memories, it shift back and forth; quotes from Tolstoy, from Pierre in War and Peace, is mentioned by bourgeoisie, drinking champagne and smoking cigars discussing Dostoevsky and Chekhov, then, next cut; to a nightmarish of an orgy in France, in which the couple are looking for a “Duchamp” room, but they mistakenly get into “Hegel” room, there is a dark element of humor in the film. Everything is in depth of field, the action is center staged, distorted, but always controlled, innovative use of framing and lens, it is a film that distort reality into a nightmarish dream of fantasy.

Nobody's Daughter Haewon (Hong Sang-soo, 2013)

Nobody’s Daughter Haewon (Hong Sang-soo, 2013)

Nobody’s Daughter Haewon (Hong Sang-soo, 2013) In Hong Sang-soo’s cinema, our first love is with his characters, his films are character study within a framework of a relationship, like Rohmer’s films, but just as Rohmer is formal in his shooting style, the opposite is true for Sang-soo; he loosen his style whenever he desires, his camera is staged like a distance viewer, always observing, and like any observation, as we observe others, the camera become an eye, a little pan here and there become the turning of the head, or glancing of the eyes. His use of color is naturalistic, subtle, yet, there is always a bright color within the frame that attract our eyes (the red sweater that Haewon love to wear), same is true for his composition, they seem very realistic, almost a documentary setup, but they are calculated to utmost details, true is also for the use of sound, the long takes, music and voice-over, as it is with the acting and the characters behaviors, he makes it look so simple, watching his film is like taking a slow walk in the park, when you get lost, you don’t want to find your way out, just as you don’t want to stop observing the characters in Sang-soo’s films, they become intimate friends, that influence comes from Robert Bresson, and if I pick, in my opinion, Nobody’s Daughter Haewon is the most Bressonian of all of Sang-soo’s films to date in his use of space, major actions happens off-screen, only a few line of voice-over is used to inform the viewer of the shift in the narrative, although the one style that makes Sang-soo different from many filmmakers working today is his minimal use of the cut, he never cut within a scene, rather, each cut take the viewer into a different place and time,  instead of the cut, he prefer to re-frame, pan, or zoom in, in a way, he is like a master haiku poet; always capturing time and space as it is, as it slowly build up into a climax of pure emotions.

Jagten aka The Hunt (Thomas Vinterberg, 2012)

Jagten aka The Hunt (Thomas Vinterberg, 2012)

Jagten aka The Hunt (Thomas Vinterberg, 2012) There are many ways of analyzing Thomas Vinterberg’s The Hunt, and as you watch it, you come out with your own personal observation as to the film, one thing is for sure; everything that happens, every character’s motive, behaviors, and perception of reality is based on an event that never took place, and to have a character guilty of a crime that is none-existence is like condemning him to live in the abyss of the darkest place in human psyche, there comes the question that examine the nature of; friendship, relationship, ethics, morality, justice, crime, violent, revenge, individualism, mob attitude, forgiveness, redemption, and vindication, I’m sure I have missed many more words and adjective to describe the masterful complexity of the film, it is perfect in every way, and there are many ways in  The Hunt.

Araf aka Somewhere in Between (Yesim Ustaoglu, 2012)

Araf aka Somewhere in Between (Yesim Ustaoglu, 2012)

Araf aka Somewhere in Between (Yesim Ustaoglu, 2012) Araf in Islamic tradition is the border between hell and heaven, it is a thin sharp line between damnation and salvation, also the first encounter to those entering paradise, and for those who leave hell behind, but yet to enter heaven. Ustaoglu’s Araf is that somewhere between the two world, with characters lost in that space, tipping one way or another. Everything is in the middle, nothing do happen, characters are stuck in the middle of indecision, hidden emotions overflows in imagery, sound and motion, wanting to be loved, desired, admired, appreciated, it take a symbolic and meditative stage in which characters sink into their own suppressive emotions, it is the old Dostoevskian psychological dilemma, to quote from Crimes and Punishment; “Taking a new step, uttering a new word, is what people fear most”, in those moments of indecision, there is a longing, it stretches time into eternity, Araf is about the longing that one feel, but does not see; from Sexual desire, to loneliness, guilt, humiliation, rage, oppression, poverty, fame, fortune, material needs, or the need of simple compassion, or a companion to share one’s happiness and grief, each character show, feel, and react differently to that yearning, and like catch 22, taking the step only triggers more to be taken, or not taking it mean more emotional suppression, it become a paradox in contradictory, with the same cycle repeating with graver consequences, with two not playing equally the game, the women become the victim, and men as the spectator. One has to go back to Ustaoglu’s Journey to the Sun to be gripped and shocked by the horror of characters lost circumstances beyond their control, but Ustaoglu never closes the door, there is always a glimpse of redemption, of starting a new amid chaos, in her films; the good in humanity triumph even if for a simple gesture, and at the end of Araf, there comes that moment that leave one on the edge of tears.

Frances Ha (Noah Baumbach, 2012)

Frances Ha (Noah Baumbach, 2012)

Frances Ha (Noah Baumbach, 2012) From the first frame of Frances Ha, the playfulness of the two characters, the string music, the giveaway moments, and the black and white cinematography, one can’t help but think of François Truffaut’s Jules et Jim, made 50 years after Truffaut’s timeless masterpiece, Frances Ha is a a different take on relationship gone astray, cold and distance at times, perhaps no other tribute to the master is as clear as the playful use of music as a sudden burst into emotion within each scene (Georges Delerue’s Thème de Camille from Godard’s Le mépris, among the many from Delerue used in the film) the scene where she is running to get cash is pure French New Wave, such nostalgic tribute, even her two brief roommate are copies of Jules and Jim, and expect lots of running, riding bicycle, giveaway moments, more playful, childish behaviors, but in a world in which the reality of the grownup sink in, there comes the nostalgia of finding oneself alone amide the crowd, and the only escape, is behaviors that is viewed by others as abnormal, or rather, childish, that is the problem with Frances Ha; she still want to be a child, in an ever changing world of grownup, and those moments of pure happiness, the few she has, are those she behave on her own, the few time she is happy with others, passes by, and turn into nostalgia for her, to escape it, a sudden impulse drive her, like going to Paris for two days, the reason? only Frances Ha knows, as she end up sleeping away her time in Paris in a little room, when she is out, her Paris a gloomy walk into empty streets, cafes, and apartments, for one sees places as one feel at the time, and her confusion only make her shift into a world of make believes, pretending to others to be what she is not, as Frances Ha slowly shift into the territory of dark humor, the harder she try to fit, the more she falls into the abyss of loneliness and alienation, for like everything else; time can make even friendship into a distance memory of forgotten happiness, and reflection upon it, only make one nostalgic.

 Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy? (Michel Gondry, 2013) Kurd, Kurdish, Kurdistan, Kurdi


Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy? (Michel Gondry, 2013)

Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy? (Michel Gondry, 2013) There are many documentaries on Noam, with social and political themes as its main subject, this one is different, Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy? is deep rooted in philosophical dialectics examination on linguistic, every word, sentence and meaning is given an image in symbolism,  imagery to words with  Gondry’s animation speaking Noam’s mind, imagery and sound explain to the viewer the inner meaning that is communicating. As Noam question everything, from his childhood memory, love for Russian literate of 19th century, to classicism in science, Aristotle,  Medieval,  Galileo, Renaissance, Descartes, Newton,  Darwin, Evolution, skepticism, daily perception and interpretation of objects, genetic, inspirations, epistemology, astrology, religion, prejudice, death of his wife, relationship, family, linguistic, human right issues,and his trip to Kurdistan and advocacy of the Kurdish issue. Gondry’s heavy french accent and Chomsky’s masterly of the language, their misunderstand at time is simply hilarious, the film has many humors.

Like Someone In Love (Abbas Kiarostami, 2012)

Like Someone In Love (Abbas Kiarostami, 2012)

Like Someone In Love (Abbas Kiarostami, 2012) More than half of Kiarostami’s cinema take place inside a car, passengers on a journey, looking out into the passing world, from Tehran, to Tuscany, to Tokyo and beyond. Long dialogues and conversation between characters from different social background that circumstance bring them together for a short glimpse of times, and then separate, never to meet again, traditional, social or generational conflict surface within each encounter, with simple cameras setup, from the perspective of each characters and one from that of the viewer, sound like simplicity and minimalism at its best? That is the cinema of Kiarostami, but with each passing film, he add more flavor to his style; in Like Someone In Love, there are few sarcastically humor scenes that one rarely sees in a Kiarostami films, same is true with building suspense and stretching it, and his experimental use of sound, of creating images and characters off-screen with only their voices, it is simply brilliant, take the Grandmother in the film, we only get a glimpse of her from the window of a passing taxi, yet, she is one of the six characters that make the film, as for the casting, the performances are not as genuine as the non-actors that Kiarostami used to get the best performances out in his films back home in Iran, especially Akiko, she is poor at her reactions, which is the core of Kiarostami’s cinema; as the camera is held more on the observed, than the observer, still,  masterful from a Master.

Le Passe aka The Past (Asghar Farhadi, 2013)

Le Passe aka The Past (Asghar Farhadi, 2013)

Le Passe aka The Past (Asghar Farhadi, 2013) We are creatures who think; we are living in the present, and only the present and the future matter, but the truth is; everything that we do or we plan to do is determined by the past, for it is in the metaphysical nature of time, that only the past exist; as I type these word, they are present, but now are past, just as the next sentence come from a future thought, but as I type it in the present, it become the past. It is only befitting that a film titled Le Passe, represent a reality on the screen, with characters and circumstances who’s destiny are shaped by muddy events that happened in the past, with the revelation of the truth, comes the unpredictable consequences. As in all of Farhadi’s film, a Dostoevskian examination of relationship of a couple is at the center stage of the film; in About Elly, it was escapism and the failure of the two couple to understand each other, in Fireworks Wednesday, it was the suspicion between the two, in Beautiful City, the two are separated by the norms of society that condemn their relationship, and in Nader and Simin: A Separation, it was the making the hard decision to separate, in Le Passe, all that has been, it the attempt to start a new beginning into the future that is at stake, for the past still hunt each of the characters, as there is this constant tension between characters in Farhadi’s film that slowly build into a climax, their mere present within the same space of each other is enough for the suspense, as each character hide more emotion underneath, than showing on the surface, the periodical release of tensions within them is always taking out at the person that is not part of the conflict, only toward the end, does each person face their inner demons in which they find the source as of being in others, so it is with the adults in La Passe, they each leave the frame, as if running away from the others, as for the children, they are there as contrast to them, they never hide way their emotion, from rage to happiness, they express it emotionally and physically, at the end, there comes those moments of each character, as they breakup into pieces, shattered like their relationship.

Oslo, August 31st (Joachim Trier, 2012)

Oslo, August 31st (Joachim Trier, 2012)

Oslo, August 31st (Joachim Trier, 2012) Oslo, August 31st open like an experimental film, with voices recalling the memory of a day in Oslo, it could have been the story of anyone in the city, but it become that of Anders, a day and a night in the life of a former drug addict, in the morning he is leaving a rehab clinic, he is determent to commit suicide, take a rock with himself and sink himself into a river, but as if resurrected, he surface again, to start his day, into Oslo, to search for what has remain of his past, and what is left of the future, with the constant thought of suicide in between, with the style of the film shifting as the mood changes, perhaps none is more obvious as the examination of everyday life in a cafe, heard and seen from the perspective of Anders, wise use of sound by the process of selectivity and elimination, as in a Kieślowski film. Oslo, day and night, is a cold and distance city, former friends are more cold and stranger to each others than the unknown walkers going by, his only redemption is a girl far away from him, on the other side of the world, calling, leaving messages, to get a second chance at love he once let go by, but the answer never comes, the day and night mean nothing to him at the end, only to realize the grim reality of a past that will never be corrected in the present, nor in the future, what is left to do but to take a journey into the undiscover’d country, from whose bourn, no traveler returns.

Les Salauds aka Bastards (Claire Denis, 2013)

Les Salauds aka Bastards (Claire Denis, 2013)

Les Salauds aka Bastards (Claire Denis, 2013) There is a magic to Denis as to how she captures the human body, in her films, the flesh, the movement of the muscles, gestures, gaze, even a little twisting of the arm has a significant meaning to the psychology of the characters. I remember the first I watched Beau travail, which was my first encounter with the cinema of Denis; I was so overwhelmed by the poetic beauty of the film, which find itself in the simple gestures and body movement, I kept going back watching the film to know the secret behind its hypnotic power, and that power is in choreographing the simple movement of the body to utmost details, as if a musical performance set to a tempo that know no space nor boundaries, it just flows, same is true for Les Salauds, more formal in its narrative structure, but as bold and innovative as Beau travail, take a journey into the heart of darkness, in which the many faces of darkness become an obscure object of desire in a murky world of the innocents and the guilt, intertwining toward an abyss, great soundtrack form Tindersticks.

Vous n'avez encore rien vu aka You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet (Alain Resnais, 2012)

Vous n’avez encore rien vu aka You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet (Alain Resnais, 2012)

Vous n’avez encore rien vu aka You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet (Alain Resnais, 2012) The essence of cinema consist of two basic emotions; actions and reactions, just as it exist within a metaphysical and a realistic observations; there is the screen, there is the viewer, there is action, there is reaction. The norm of cinema is to capture the two in one, narrative driven, the reaction from perspective of the viewer become that of the film, character take your emotions, as you emphasize with them and the story. Many filmmakers tried to capture the two reality on separate medium, the action and the reaction, the screen and the viewer, and each time, by eliminating on motif of  the other, a rather experimental take, films have been made, in which as a viewer, you become aware of the construction of the film, and participate as a viewer within the characters in the film, Kiarostami’s Shirin is an example, as is some films of Godard, or Herz Frank, etc.  Resnais has always been one of those filmmakers, with passing time, somehow he managed to innovate himself, find a way to make film on an experimental scale, but narrative driven as if in classic tradition of filmmaking, in  You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet the two walk a balance line, it is a film that examine the nature of films, theater, acting, play, literature, painting, music, poetry, architecture and their constant interaction with the viewer, sound like experimental filmmaking, but it is a film more in line of an Agatha Christi mystery tale, especially Then There Were None; a dead man  call upon the living, a playwright and his former stage actors to gather in a large mansion in a remote place to perform a modern day version of Eurydice , full of unexpected events, shifting of narrative and character study, past, present and the future exists on the same canvas, the acting is also in three stages, three different people at times, playing the same role, each with a different take as they observe each other, they lost in time, space, places and memories that is forces upon them with no control over it, such classic narrative and style, such subtle form to tell a story, yet, such innovation, such freshness. “I love you too much to live”, says Orpheus to Eurydice, and one tender gaze, one look take away Eurydice back to Hades. Vous n’avez encore rien vu is based on Jean Anouilh’s plays Eurydice and Dear Antoine: or, the Love That Failed, and like Resnais’s earlier film, Melo, which is based on a Henry Bernstein play; both film are an examination on the impossibility of a lasting love, in Melo, it is only a reflection on the woman from two men who both loved her equally, in  Vous n’avez encore rien vu, it is one man’s dilemma with two characteristic, love and death, he seem to find both eternal when they become one; Orpheus is with Eurydice at last.

Un monde sans femmes aka A World Without Women (Guillaume Brac, 2011)

Un monde sans femmes aka A World Without Women (Guillaume Brac, 2011)

Un monde sans femmes aka A World Without Women (Guillaume Brac, 2012) Ah, what a small masterpiece Un monde sans femmes is, just under one hour in length, it got everything of emotions that many of today’s film lack, it is almost a perfect tribute to the cinema of Ermanno Olmi, with characters that one encounters in daily life, too real for the screen. There are five characters in the film; Sylvain, a shy middle age man, living a lonely life, who fall in love with two strangers; a mother and a daughter, arriving for a short holiday in a small French coastal town. Sylvain become attached to them, and fall in love with the Mother, only to have a rival in Gilles, a local police who seduce the Mother, for she is attracted to guys who want her for a short time, as she confess to Sylvain of her inability to secure a long lasting relationship, heartbroken, there is nothing left for him but a short outburst of emotion in the night before the departure of the two stranger. The guilt of abandonment is felt by the daughter, who in return is the only one who is capable of feeling Sylvain’s pain, for she seem to understand the true nature of love. There is also the character of Marie, a old woman and a friend of Sylvain whom he confide in. In today’s ever macho cinema, it is hard to come upon a film like Un monde sans femmes, to find a sensitive, shy and passive character as Sylvain.

La Vie d'Adèle aka Blue Is the Warmest Color (Abdellatif Kechiche, 2013)

La Vie d’Adèle aka Blue Is the Warmest Color (Abdellatif Kechiche, 2013)

La Vie d’Adèle aka Blue Is the Warmest Color (Abdellatif Kechiche, 2013) In reality, the colors of; Red, Orange and Yellow are the warmest colors, Blue is a primarily color, but with Green and Violet, they are cool colors, but that is in reality of what is dictated by the norm, in the other alternative of one’s reality, the spectrum of the colors can change depending on one’s state of mind and perception of nature, for Adele, discovering who she is, escaping the forced reality dictated on her life; blue become the warmest color. Abdellatif Kechich’s cinema is all about the spontaneity of performance, his tight framing shots, tight close-up, he hold on those shots forever, while cut away fast from the wide shots, as if the wide shots are there only to justify the present of the characters within the surrounding and the frame. Kechiche love to examine the human face, he is like a painter, with his camera capturing little details of gestures here and there; the twisting of the mouth, a glance, a curve in the neck, etc. What attract a person to another? Is it the opposite pole of the scale, or the similarity that crashes when the two meet? A love of two, Adele and Emma, two from a far world, two different social class and mentality; Adele’s parents are more traditional, her education comes from school, from French’s earliest literature; La Princesse de Clèves, she want to be a teacher, while Emma comes from a family that is deep into culture, she is into to Sartre and existentialism, and into art, one aim for the norm of life, the other, the top of the ladder. Even in their taste, they are different; Adele into earlier, more lighter version, more raw emotional purity in everything, yet, she get lost in the existentialist world of Emma, she step into a world not only colliding with her former life, but with her mere existence of living the same life, and that is tragedy; the inescapable fact in one’s life which one refuse to admit too, when in love or in separation, her emotion take control of her, grief and joy are never lasting, but for Adele, she live in each as if it is a never lasting moments, especially her desires, she is emotionally primitive, unable to control her tears in the face of the grim reality of separation, worse, she is incapable to pass that stage, to start afresh, that is a tragedy; to be lost in someone else’s world, incapable of escaping. Continue reading

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On Design: Room Design

©KarzanKardozi

Room

“I had three chairs in my house; one for solitude, two for friendship, three for society. When visitors came in larger and unexpected numbers there was but the third chair for them all, but they generally economized the room by standing up. It is surprising how many great men and women a small house will contain”

from Walden (1854) by  Henry David Thoreau.

More than a week ago, I wrote about designing book covers (Read here), and at the end of the article, I refereed to my room and promised to write and suggest some tips about designing your room, I got a few email asking for the article, bust watching Football kept me away, now,  the World Cup is over (I was cheering for Argentina, but it wasn’t to be), I got some hours of spare time, so here is how I planned and designed my room:

In Winter Time

In Winter Time

As I mentioned in the previous article; designing a book cover is not much different from designing your room,  or as a matter of fact; in designing anything that exist in nature, there are a few elements you have to consider; Space, Objects, Layout, Theme, Colors, and Time.

Having a deep passion for cinema, I wanted my room to become like an inside of a theater, the reason for that is because I use the room mostly to watch film and write, and in order for one to feel comfortable in an environment, one must reshape that environment to one’s liking and taste, only then can one become creative and feel comfortable.

One of the question that I’m always asked as to why I choose the color Red as the primarily color for the room? I chose is for the simple reason that it is my favorite color, and also; by its nature, Red is an active color, it attract the eye, move and animate one, but to balance the Red, the second color that I have used it Black, almost every object that I choose to decorate the room has a tone of black to it; from the DVD/Book Shelves, to the wood on the door, tables, furniture and even the frame of the posters on the wall, Black is the secondary color.

I like to think that I have divided the room into Seven different parts, each function independently from other in term of its suggestive layout, rather an abstract notion to explain, but I will try my best to point out the reason I divided the room into Seven parts:

Posters

Posters

1. Passion for Cinema: When you walk into the room, the first think you encounter is a collection of Film Posters on the wall (Read about my selection of Posters here), there are a total of 38 Film Posters, they are my favorite films from my favorite directors, I have designed some of the posters myself, others I have collected, some were given as a gift by friends (thanks Ruben), and I have printed most of them. The frame are made of wood, all in the same style; black. In a way, one side of the room is almost like a small wall on a museum to be looked at.

Shelves

Shelves

“Books are the treasured wealth of the world and the fit inheritance of generations and nations.”
― from Walden (1854) by  Henry David Thoreau.

Tolstoy standout about the rest

Tolstoy standout about the rest

2. DVD and Book Collection: On the other side of the wall, hang floating shelves, therefore taking very little space, for now; space are filling up, which mean in the future, I might have to add more shelves at the bottom of it. So far; it hold more than 720 DVD cases (total of 3330 DVDs in them), and more than 200 book. Although I primarily collect DVDs from Criterion, Master of Cinema, and other known publishing label, I also have large quantity of Film that I brought back from the States with only the disk and no cases, a reason that I decided to display the DVDs by directors and countries, for example; I have the complete works of Hitchocks both on DVDs and Blu-rays, for the blu-rays they are in their own cases, but for the DVDs, I have combined many film into one case, therefore saving space, same is true for Soviet cinema; I managed to display one hundreds years of Soviet films into at total of 96 DVDs cases, there are total of 645 DVDs in those 96 cases. Continue reading

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On Design: Book Covers

©KarzanKardozi

01 Childhood, Boyhood and Youth

“Beauty: the adjustment of all parts proportionately so that one cannot add or subtract or change without impairing the harmony of the whole.”

On Painting” by Leon Battista Alberti

Two years ago, I decided to design my own personal covers for my book collection of Classic Russian Literature, within a month, on my spare time, I managed to design covers for all the collected works of Leo Tolstoy, Ivan Turgenev, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Anton Chekhov, Nikolai Gogol and Alexander Pushkin. A few weeks ago, when a friend visited my room, I was asked to write an article for a local magazine on the nature of design and my interpretation it, below are some extract from that article:

©KarzanKardozi
When setting out to design, two things are important to consider as the layout map for the whole design: Space and Objects (if you are designing a visual multimedia, the third thing to consider is: Time). One might simply consider the whole creation of Universe as a balanced act of Space, Objects and Time, without being philosophical, same thing apply to  designing a book cover or a space rocket. A harmonic combination of space and objects is all that is need to create a style, but one’s placement of objects within the space might take multiple experiment in order to create a perfect geometrical harmony, there are few rules to follow; from golden rule ratio to Fibonacci Numbers, to choosing a simple geometric shape.

Fibonacci Numbers

Fibonacci Numbers

For my style, I copied from the best; since I started collecting books, one of my hobbies was to collect Penguin Books;  it was for the simple reason for their beautiful cover design, crossing from one book into another. I copied the same style for each author’s book; there were a total of 25 Volume of Tolstoy’s work and a total of 17 from Turgenev, and only a unified design in the form of a series, with repetition of the same theme and style had a chance of creating a unified volume of works for each authors.

Penguin Books Design

Penguin Books Design

Unless you are master painter or a have a perfect eye for mathematical calculation and colors, then avoid using simple tools to design; it is recommend to use software when setting out to design, for Book and DVD covers, I would recommend you familiarize yourself with software such as; Adobe Illustrators, InDesign and Photoshop,  because one way or another, you will end up needing all three in combination for your work. Still; when you first create your layout, a paper, pencil and a ruler is all that you need. It is in the layout process that you map out the objects of your design in perfect harmony with the space that is provided for you.

In my case; I designed a cover for A4 papers, depending on your taste or your clients, you may have a different space to  work with. One layout is all that is required for creating a series, once you decide on the layout of the space, colors, fonts, and theme, you could easily save it as a template and repeat the same process over and over again, until you get bored with it, but in order not to get bored and the process of becoming repetitious; try making subtle changes; such as chanting the color of fonts, but try not to stretch each elements, making it independent form the series.

"Ukrainian Girl Tending Geese" (1892) by Nikolai Kornilievich Bodarevsky

“Ukrainian Girl Tending Geese” (1892) by Nikolai Kornilievich Bodarevsky

©KarzanKardozi

18 Father Sergius, The Wisdom of Children and other Stories

I used 18th and 19th century Russian Realism painting as  a unified theme for all my cover design, each painting were carefully chosen to reflect the time of the book and the painting, but most important; the theme of the cover and the book were one in nature, the saying might go; “Don’t judge a book by its cover”, but the truth is; many do judge a book by its cover, so any image, illustration, painting and text you use must; one way or another, reflect the content of the book. Continue reading

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The Films of Aleksei German

Aleksei German (1938 – 2013)

Aleksei German (1938 – 2013)

A while ago, Aleksei German passed away from kidney failure in a hospital in Saint-Peterberg, for the past seven years, he was working on his unfinished masterpiece, History of the Arkanar Massacre aka Hard to Be a God, based on the Strugatsky brother’s science-fiction novel, he never finished it.The film now in the editing and post-production stage, and according to his son, Aleksei German, Jr, it is to be released within a year, or maybe more.

History of the Arkanar Massacre (Aleksei German, 2013)

History of the Arkanar Massacre (Aleksei German, 2013)

In the span of more than 40 years, Aleksei German only made six films, his first was co-directed with Grigori Aronov, and his last, unfinished. His short cinematic resume is perhaps one reason that he is unknown to many film viewers, a pity, for he is among the masters of Soviet Cinema, believe it or not, three years after making My Friend Ivan Lapshin in 1984, the film was voted by Soviet critic and filmmakers as the greatest Soviet film ever to have been made, surpassing all the previous masters. Looking back to my film diary, here is my short reviews to all the films from a forgotten master; Aleksei German, and impatiently waiting to see History of the Arkanar Massacre.

Sedmoy sputnik aka The Seventh Companion (Aleksei German and Grigori Aronov, 1968)

Sedmoy sputnik aka The Seventh Companion (Aleksei German and Grigori Aronov, 1968)

Sedmoy sputnik aka The Seventh Companion (Aleksei German and Grigori Aronov, 1968) Aleksei German’s directorial debut, The Seventh Companion was co-directed with Grigori Aronov, based on a novel by Boris Lavrenev, before directing the film, Aleksei German was a student of Grigori Kozintsev, and The Seventh Companion shows the influence of Kozintsev, it is a realistic and fascinating film that seem to have been made in Soviet days of 1930s rather than in 1960s with the acting, dialogue, set designs, and the cinematography re-creating the realistic and nostalgic early days of the Union . The story take place during the early days of the Revolution, Yevegeny Adamov (Andrei Popov) is a former general of Czar’s Army, a professor at the military academy, when taken to custody, he obey and later join the new force of the Bolsheviks, although his joining is a matter of will to continue to live, for he has no home nor any family left to return to, and he is dire need of food and shelter, he is never convinced of the Bolshevik ideology, when later captured by the White and he refuse to join them, asked as to why he had joined the  Bolshevik and would not join his old army?, his answer is rather a philosophical one, “When a large body passes through space, smaller bodies are drawn into its orbit. Sometimes against their will”, it is indeed against his will that the forces of revolutions and wars drive him from fate into another; he become a prisoner of the Reds, a homeless man, then a worker, a soldier of the red army and finally a prisoner of the Whites, and not once, does he question nor condemn his fate, rather, he goes alone with it, he is a man who time and circumstances shapes his life, always for the worse, but he lives with it, he is a man whom history will never remember, for neither he is a hero nor a villain, but a simple man, a victim of his time.

Proverka na dorogakh aka Road-Checkpoint (Aleksei German, 1971

Proverka na dorogakh aka Road-Checkpoint (Aleksei German, 1971

 Proverka na dorogakh aka Road-Checkpoint (Aleksei German, 1971) Road Check-point is a timeless masterpiece from a master, Aleksei German. It is a revisionist war film in which the hero of the film is no other than a former traitor and collaborator of the German Nazi invaders, when giving a second chance, as Aleksei lets him have it, he prove himself to be a hero of the Red Army and the motherland, but he is unsung hero like many of the Partisans that he fight alongside, in Aleksei German’s war films, it is no words and tactical planning of generals and army big shots that decide the fate of winning or losing a war, but the individual actions of the foot soldiers, they are the real hero, they are the ones who change the rules of the game. It is no wonder that the film was banned and shelved for 15 years, for the hero of the film, Lazarev is anything that one may consider a war hero, but his self sacrificing action is what save the others, and in process redeem himself. Shot in gritty black and white, monochrome tone, with long takes and subtle silent acting, with explosive action sequences, Road-Checkpoint is not only one of Aleksei German’s masterpiece, but it is among one of the best war films ever to come out of the Soviet Union, it pay tribute to those that history will never mention, nor will they be remembered, the theme is best visualized at the end of the film; as the train leave dying Lazarev, crawling to make it, but fail, and the living reaming partisans has to push the machinery of war from behind, always struggling, the story of unsung hero.

Dvadtsat dney bez voyny aka Twenty Days Without War (Aleksei German, 1976)

Dvadtsat dney bez voyny aka Twenty Days Without War (Aleksei German, 1976)

Dvadtsat dney bez voyny aka Twenty Days Without War (Aleksei German, 1976) Aleksei German is famous for casting his actor against the system, and perhaps no other actor in his films has being miscast as Yuri Nikulin playing the role of a major Lopatin in Twenty Days Without War, and  Nikulin delvers, for in real life he fought many battles during WWII, only later to become a comic actor, the irony of it. In Twenty Days Without War, everything is foggy, life on the battlefield is equally as cruel as in the home front, getting 20 days leave to go back to Tashkent after the battle of Stalingrad, Lopatin only find the effect of the war on the people more devastating than on the soldier on the battle front, and he is puzzled by the naivety of the people, especially the intellectual class, artist and filmmakers as to their romantic notion of wars, heroic deeds and glory, when his 20 day leave is cut short, he is indifferent to it, as going back to the front, he know the war will be long, but more important, he knows that after the war, his life will be even a longer struggle to overcome what he had lost during the war, as always, at the end of an Aleksei German, the viewer is left with the collectivity of the emotional impact of the film, his last few images always speak for the whole film; Upon returning to the front, he walk with three other soldiers to join his outfit, only to shelled, when surviving, amid the foggy and smoky landscape, the soldiers talk about their planning after the war as they disappear from the screen into the smoke, Lopatin is silent, he has already experienced what  life after the war will be like, to him, the war and after the war is a long way from now, he is silent to others, but his voice-over speak his inner thoughts to the audience; “Though we’re plodding forward, we’re only in Kuban, and Berlin is a long way off. A long, long way.”

Moy drug Ivan Lapshin aka My Friend Ivan Lapshin (Aleksei German, 1984)

Moy drug Ivan Lapshin aka My Friend Ivan Lapshin (Aleksei German, 1984)

Moy drug Ivan Lapshin aka My Friend Ivan Lapshin (Aleksei German, 1984) Believe it or not, three years after making My Friend Ivan Lapshin, the film was voted by Soviet critic and filmmakers as the greatest Soviet film ever to have been made, with that, My Friend Ivan Lapshin was and is praised upon not only us one of the great Soviet film, and the crowning achievement of Aleksei German, who would go on to make only one other complete film. Like all of German films, the story is set in the past, in 1935s, during Stalin’s purge, the film is based on stories from Alekse’s father, Yurii German, it is told in flashback, and for once, in an Aleksei German film we have a few shot in color, very few scenes, but they are the only color footage that German ever shot. Ivan Lapshin is an investigator who share a commune flat with others, including our narrator and his father,a little kid of seven, we get a glimpse of each character in episodic turn; their relationship, struggle, hope, pessimism and desperation, but we rarely see our narrator as and adult and as a little kid, he is there only as a passive eye witness, for many incident take place without him being present, one might as well assume he had made a fictional recreation. What is significant about this film and all of the other films from Aleksei German is how raw his Mise-en-scène are; out of nowhere we see a passerby crossing the frame, or at a distance someone walk, two people talk, another one stare at the camera, his composition equally lack any priority to be given to characters or subjects, with long takes and pure black and white imagery, light bulbs overexposed, or scenes underexposed, the film is a realistic portrait of the time is choreographed to utmost details, such perfection give it a feeling of hyper realism in lyricism.

Khrustalyov, mashinu! aka Khrustalyov, My Car! (Aleksei German, 1998)

Khrustalyov, mashinu! aka Khrustalyov, My Car! (Aleksei German, 1998)

Khrustalyov, mashinu! aka Khrustalyov, My Car! (Aleksei German, 1998) I cant remember who said it, but the quote was “Khrustalyov, My Car! is a mix of Fedrico Fellini and Andrie Tarkovsky”, to some extent the quote speak best for the film, for it has a roller coaster ride with its unique characters of the likes in a Fellini film, as it also a film rich with Tarkovsky moments, but with hyper realism, saying that, one could never judge a film by comparing it to that of others. Khrustalyov, My Car! is a pure Aleksi German film, and perhaps his masterpiece. As always, expect masterful black and white cinematography,  especially the use of depth of field, it is used to highlight everything, not only the action within the frame, but characters insignificant to the action, passerby present for no reason; a man looking at a distance at the foreground where an argument is taking place, but he is light more brightly than the foreground, or suddenly, a character block the camera, we won’t see the action, or the action take place offstage, we only hear sound of the action, as always, long tracking shots and lengthy takes make the film depend very little on editing.  “The mills of the Gods grind slowly, but they grind exceeding fine”,  said the Greek philosopher Sextus Empiricus, so it is with General Yuri Glinshi, one moment he is exiled, next, he is by Stalin’s deathbed. The characters show their suffering and joy by action, not words or meditation, the General’s wife is sad, or rather, she is going mad after her husband is taken away,  she won’t sit and cry, nor would she talk to other about her misfortunes, rather, she pick a bucket full of dirty cloth and smash it on top of her head. When a character is hopeless to respond to violent, they slap themselves on the face, for they are hopeless. All the character in the film behave like children when driven to the edge, they react by use of violent to express their disapproval or by playing games and laughter to express their joy. The desperation and inability to control their life drive them to the edge, but this illusion of state of the mind as is with the General take a twist into the reality of the time, as he is falling from the grace, the film become an absurdest nightmare, as cruel fate make an animal out of him, in a demonstration of realism in violence and savagery that few films dare to get there,he is told. “Don’t tempt fate, mister”, tempt it or not, he has to live it, the life, the fall and rise of a General, his title alone determine how others view him, for his personality, deeds and character is judged by his position alone and nothing more.

 

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Yilmaz Guney: The Ugly King

Yilmaz Guney : The Ugly King (April 1, 1937 - September 9, 1984)

Yilmaz Guney : The Ugly King (April 1, 1937 – September 9, 1984)

76 years ago, on April 1, 1937, Yilmaz Guney was born: He  was born in the small village of Yenice near Adana, Turkey, to a peasant Kurdish family and went on to become a the most beloved Turkish/Kurdish filmmaker, and if had lived a full life, he could have been 76 years old today, but fate took him away at his peak, he died in 1984, in exile in Paris. He was called “The Ugly King”, labeled as the “People’s Artist”, he was never afraid to stand up to what he considered injustice, and for that, he paid dearly, spent half of his life either in prison or exile, yet, he left us with many cinematic gems. He was and is viewed as a mix of revolutionary of a  pop icon, as someone put it, “Something like Clint Eastwood, James Dean, and Che Guevara combined”.  Looking back at my film diary, here are a few of his film that recently I had a chance to write about:

Seyyit Han (Yilmaz Güney, 1968)

Seyyit Han (Yilmaz Güney, 1968)

Seyyit Han (Yilmaz Güney, 1968) As always, Guney leave you at the end of a film, breathless. Among his early work, Seyit Han is a part folktale, part western and a part revenge/superhero film, full of  lyrical touches. The story of a  tragic love affair between Seyyit Han, whom after seven year hunting down his enemies is back to claim his bride, Keje, but he soon find out that she is getting married to the village Agha, the same day as he get back. Brilliantly scripted, the film soon take a tragic turn as by mistake, the Agha tricks Seyyit Han into shooting Keje, when Han find out, he goes on a revenge spree in a masterful climax, with Guney’s direction, he makes times stop, the last ten minute is a visual tour force that matches any Kurosawa or Leone’s action scenes, one thing is sure, Guney know how to direct actions, the man seems to be a master everything. Beautiful. READ MY FULL REVIEW HERE (IN KURDISH)

Umut (Yilmaz Guney, 1970)

Umut (Yilmaz Guney, 1970)

Umut (Yilmaz Guney, 1970) After watching Guney’s Umut, Elia Kazan was so moved by the film, he wrote an article to the Miliyet newspaper; “Umut is a poetic film, completely native, not an imitation of  Hollywood or any of the European masters, it had risen out of a village environment”, he went on to describe how the characters in the film came across as the most realistic portrayal of the working class; “I had not been able to forget the people in Guney’s story. The notion of hope is seemed to these characters a grotesque notion, something to be ridiculed. After I have seen the film, for the rest of that day, I felt anxious about them, “What is going to happen to those people to those people?”, I asked”. My friend, watch Umut, the one film that revolutionized the Turkish cinema, brought the realism to the screen that few other film could match. READ ELIA KAZAN’S VISIT TO GUNEY IN PRISON HERE (IN KURDISH)

Baba (Yilmaz Guney, 1971)

Baba (Yilmaz Guney, 1971)

Baba (Yilmaz Guney, 1971) Baba means Father in Turkish, and the father in the film is Yilmaz Guney himself; the story of a poor country father who end up taking the blame for a murder he has not committed, take the guilt of a rich man upon himself for the sake of his family, as he leave them behind, telling the lie that he travels to Germany to find work, only to come back many a years later from prison, old and grey, he finds he ugly truth; the was betrayed by the rich man, and what has remain of his family is his daughter, force into prostitution to make a living. Heartbreaking tragic story of a common man lead a stray by the greed of a few. The film was an inspiration for Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Three Monkeys (2008)

Umutsuzlar aka The Hopeless One (Yilmaz Guney, 1971)

Umutsuzlar aka The Hopeless One (Yilmaz Guney, 1971)

Umutsuzlar aka The Hopeless One (Yilmaz Guney, 1971) When one think of Yilmaz Guney, one think of him as a great director, but he is also a great actor, just watch Umutsuzlar and notice how he had created a characters that from the first frame of the film to the last has a continuity to him that few could achieves, a characters full of pain and sorrow expressed through gestures rather than dialogues.  Umutsuzlar  is a visual film, there are few dialogues, instead, the visual and music tell the story, it has a slow pace, rather a beautiful pace to it that one could find in Fassbinder’s films. Few could compare Guney to Hitchcock, but there is a similarity between Umutsuzlar and Vertigo and I could even go so far as to make the statement that it is among the fewest film to captures the spirit of Vertigo; both films are about a man’s desire to create a woman in his own vision, past and the memory of the past dominate the film. There are scenes in Umutsuzlar that are as powerful as Vertigo in expressing the desire and the love between the two characters, compare the wedding scene Vertigo‘s hotel scene, even the camera work is similar, they both move in a circle as the two lover embrace each other. Then there is the music, a theme that is played from the beginning of the film over negative images of the character in red, and keep playing the same theme every time the two lover recall the pain of separating, the theme connect the space between them. The power of cinema is to create a feeling, to create a thought in the viewer indirectly and Guney manages to create that with empathy to the character’s pure emotion that we share. Umutsuzlar is a purist film, a visual tour de force from Guney, a forgotten masterpiece. A tragic film about love, grief, pain, memory and longing. Continue reading

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FC Barcelona in a Game of Chess

Pep Guradiola's Barcelona: Lifted 14 trophies from the 19 competitions

Pep Guradiola’s Barcelona: Lifted 14 trophies from the 19 competitions

I have been watching Football since I was a little kid, and in my lifetime, I have never seen such perfection and mastery in playing Football as watching FC Barcelona play for the past four years, they were and are in my opinion and that of many the greatest team ever played the game, especially under Pep Guradiola, the club lifted 14 trophies out of  19 competitions, a record that will never be broken, nor a team like that will ever to be seen again playing the beautiful game, they are one football team that I love and admire most.

"What has been will not be Again"

“What has been will not be Again”

Pushkin once said, “What has been will not be Again”, it is true for this beautiful team also, despite annihilating all their opponents in La Liga this year, and ahead of their main rival, Real Madrid by 16 point, therefore, already in the driving set for another La Liga title, yet, some questions has been asked as to Barca’s “ending era”, for in the past few weeks, the team lost two match, one very crucial, the away game of the Champion League to AC Milan, losing 2-0, and last night, a less significant match, losing to their arch rival, Madrid in el clasico, 3-1,  for all the talks of Barcelona’s era ending, it is total nonsense, for the same players who won everything under  Guradiola can do the same again under a brilliant tactical coach, and they were doing it under Guradiola’s assistance and Barca’s new coach, Tito Vilanova, but since his temporary departure from the club and treatment for Parotid gland cancer, Barcelona had suffered unlike before, the team is lacking something, they are missing a coach, a tactical one, and that only made their opponent to out maneuver them tactically and therefore defeating them even if Barca were the better of the two team. Continue reading

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Snow in Sulaimani

A few weeks ago it snowed in Suli, I took my camera to the roof,  and took some pictures, snow is perfect for photography, for the texture of the snow itself work as a light reflector, even at night, the landscape is flooded with light,  when shooting indoor, it is a perfect source of soft light. After taking the picture,  added some over the top filters from Photoshop, the result is not bad:

© Karzan Kardozi

© Karzan Kardozi

© Karzan Kardozi Continue reading

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Sufi Ali: See Gold and Dust as One

Ivan Constantinovich Aivazovsky - Constantinople

Ivan Constantinovich Aivazovsky – Constantinople

Take a look closely at the painting above, it was painted in 1856 by Ivan Constantinovich Aivazovsky، a Russian landscape painter, he traveled many countries and always painted the most exotic/stereotypical image of the places, his paintings are that of landscapes, but alwasy with characters, they are tiny creature compared to the landscape, but they are detailed to utmost perfection, as if they are dressed for the occasion to be painted by Aivazovsky.

Now and then, when I take a walk in the bazaar of Suli, I always visit one place when it the time for sunset, the place remind me of Aivazovsky’s painting; around The Great Mosque in the center of the city, it was named “The Great Mosque“, because it used to be the biggest mosque in Suli, but it is not a big mosque by any standard of measurement. The place is always crowded, from morning to sunset, full of street peddlers, black marketers, whole-sale traders, and, right in front of the mosque, in the doorway, the place is crowded with Old Men, many of them sell rosary, few of them gather in the place to meet old acquittance or just to have a chat, that is the place in Suli where one can meet interesting people, not those who sit on cafes, tea houses, bookshops, who’s only knowledge comes from books, as they mubo-jumbo their intellectual knowledge to each other, quoting from the best writers, poets and philosophers, rather, in front of The Great Mosque, you meet people who has lived life, they lived the books that we read, and they have many tales to tell.

Vasily Polenov - Dreams

Vasily Polenov – Dreams

That is where I meet an interesting old man a few days ago, I say he was an interesting old man, because he was old and he was interested in everything, seem to know everything, yet, never really indulged about anything, for he lived in a world of his own, that of mysticism. He was a Sufi, but don’t imagine him as one dressed in white, with a white and red round hat on his head as most Sufis are imagined, rather, he was dressed in traditional Kurdish cloth, and one could not tell him apart from many others in the crowd. Continue reading

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2012: Film Diary

 

Alyonka (Boris Barnet, 1961)

Alyonka (Boris Barnet, 1961)

Looking back at my film diary for 2012: I managed to watch 384 films, that is more than an average of one film per day, not bad, could have been more. Beside films, read many books, watched every single football game of FC Barcelona, they are nothing short of watching a piece of Art in motion, but that is another story.

Here are my picks for the best films of 2012, from what I have seen so far:

Tabu (Miguel Gomes, 2012)

Tabu (Miguel Gomes, 2012)

Tabu (Miguel Gomes, 2012) Put Tabu beside Carax’ Holy Motors as two self-conscious film in meditation on the art of cinema, equally beautiful and poetic  F.W Murnau’s Tabu, Gomes’ Tabu is the story of two films; one sound, one silent. The first part of the film is the sound one, titled, Lost Paradise, almost a Pedro Costa take on the modern day Lisbon, or even better;  Pedro Costa’s imagery and de Olivera’s subtle acting, in which Portuguese Colonialism is a past memory that no one talk about, but the legacy is still present in the old grumpy Aurora, she still prefer to refer to her black maid as a “Witch”, and still talk about witchcraft. But to make up for old grumpy Aurora, you got  the silent Miss.Pilar; you don’t find characters like her in many films nowadays, she is so gentle, so simple, caring for others is her top priority, even if those others are thousands of miles away, she cry for no reason but for feeling for others, she pray every night before she goes to sleep, always for others and not herself. The second part of the films is the silent one, the most poetic, and the most beautiful, simply titled, Paradise; The times is the days of Portuguese Colonialism in Africa, the style of the film is that of silent cinema; no dialogue, the music of the soundtracks is a perfect silent film accommodation, those long dissolve from one shot into another, silent acting, no title cards, the only sound are the narrative of Gian Luca, minimalist  experimental use of sound, beautiful, lyrical black and white imagery, long tracking shots. Miguel Gomes is a poet of filmmaker, every word of Gian Luca describing his youth is in prose; the story of young and beautiful Aurora, in a  tragic love affair, from strangers, to lovers, to the story of two lovers on the run, then distance tragic lovers, in which two lover’s only communication now is lover letters; “If I curse the day I met you, it’s because it was followed by the one when we separated”, pure imagination is at work here, it is not circumstances, but the desire for a tragic ending that make the two lover separate forever, “And despite this love, never buried or defeated, I decided not to look for her”, Gian Luca Ventura is a coward of a characters, he neither can get what he desire, nor get away from it, he live in a times of indecision, as for young Aurora, she live, but with regrets, ” I have to exist, because the life I carry demands so”. Beautiful film.

Amour (Michael Haneke, 2012)

Amour (Michael Haneke, 2012)

Amour (Michael Haneke, 2012) In his book, Civilization and Its Discontents, Sigmund Freud write about the three thing that mankind never could escape from; The interaction with the society we live in, the interaction with other people, and our bodies, that is; sickness, old age and death. Amour is the story of  sickness, old age and death, the inescapable facts of life, and the interaction with each other, we rarely see the outside world, the only time we do, is when the husband and wife interact with other people from that outside world, we are stuck in a little apartment, with two people, two old people, the only thing they have is to reflect upon the past and the outside world via books, newspaper and radio (they don’t even have TV), but let us put aside Freud and the story of Amour, rather, let us talk about the style that make this film a meditating watch. If you look at the early silent films of the great Yasujiro Ozu, you will find it very stylish, many scenes in which the camera move, high angle, low angles shot, formal style of filmmaking that we rarely associate with Ozu, and if you look at early and middle Haneke, you find them also very stylish, especially 71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance, but with Amour, he is becoming almost  perfect in taking his style to the simplest, back into a formal style of filmmaking, almost to the silent era. Such style is needed for a film that take place inside a closed space of an apartment. Shooting in interior is always a challenge, for giving the limited space, the director does not have enough choice to maneuver the actor around or the camera, that is why the limit use of space is always a challenge for a good Mise en scène; Hanaek solve is brilliantly, going back to the style of Ozu, by using the furniture, doorways, the walls and the characters to block and change the size of the shot within one camera setup; the two old coupe walk into the house, the camera is setup to a two cowboy medium shot, as they go to hang their cloth, away from the camera, the shot become a two long full shot, even when the characters leave the space, he does not cut, but hold the shot. As for camera movement, the camera follow the behind characters in the corridor when in search of something, or to build up suspense, a little pans, a tilt,  to adjust the character’s position and framing, or to change the shot size, the same camera movement is repeated multiple times, giving an overall unity to the style in the film. At times, as the character leave the space, the camera stay, it is the off-screen sound that tell the viewer the present of the character within the frame. Most of the time, we observe the wife through the subject POV of the husband, almost a Hitchockaian use of the shots; we see the husband, he looks, shot of what he see, back to his reaction, at times, his POV shot become an objective of an establishing shot, as he walk into the frame. Perhaps simpler in style, is the coverage shot; when the dialogue is not interesting, Hanake hold the establishing shot for a long time; when it is interesting; after  the establishing shot, he cut to two over-the-shoulder shots, back and forth, when it is emotional, it is back and forth medium close up shot of each, couldn’t get simpler, but formal in style than that. You even have the pillow shots of Ozu, not as glamors, nor as poetic; still life shots of the interior of the apartment as transition from one sequence into another. As for the wide shots, there are very few, but when there is one, the space is used like a theatrical stage, characters spread out in one layer, the only time there is depth within the frame is when a character move toward or away from the camera, almost back to the early day of silent filmmaking, with one different; you got dialogue, sound effect and music in Amour, masterful.

Holy Motors (Leos Carax, 2012)

Holy Motors (Leos Carax, 2012)

Holy Motors (Leos Carax, 2012) After more than a decade since his last feature film, Carax is back stronger than ever. Take a limousine ride around Paris with Monsieur Oscar on the back seat and Ciline driving, Carax’s a modern day Alphaville take on memory and reflection of cinema, watch it on the big screen, it is not made for TV or Computer screens, and if one has a strong memory of cinema, one will appreciate the genius of the film more. Carax’s most personal film to date is his love poem to cinema, to the past and the future of cinema, the beautiful past, and the future in which cinema become a CGI factory, but he does not reject the future, he only reflect upon it beauty; it is more glamorize to show the the technique of CGI than hiding it, but the emotion can’t be registered truthfully, the actor muse use stylized gestures and movement of the body, Denis Lavant’s dance in the room bring back memory of the ending of another film on the memory of cinema, Clair Denis’ Beau travail. Holy Motors is a combination of short films, each a tribute to a different cinema, it has one thing that many today’s film lack, less dialogue and more visual, cinema that once were cinema. Carax’s memory of cinema reflect upon copying of imagery and characters; the old man from the end of 2001, the factories from Ozu, roads of future from Solaris, Godzilla, the hair from Psycho, sound from Alphaville, Resnai’s Last Years at Marianbad, Rivett’es Umerbela of Chernburg, Hollywood’s musical, perhaps no other is as clear as Edith Scob at the end of the film becoming Christiane again, she is at home once again as if in Franju’s Eyes Without a Face, putting the mask on, “I’m coming home”. The one other film that I could think of with its structure being the memory of cinema is Pedro Costa’s O Sangue. Even the acting in each sequence is in line with cinema’s progress; the Monsieur Merde sequence is pure expressionism, re-carnation of Jekyll and Hyde, Nosferatu, a mix of King Kong and Hunchback of Noter Dame, Lon Chaney alive again, heavy orchestra of silent music on top of it, you even got the iris closing in on the details, Monsieur Merde’s behavior lack logic, like a silent character, he knocks down a blind man out of dozen who sees. What is more classical than a woman lightening a cigarette for a man and vise-verse, the old cliché of Hollywood, the beauty light it for the beast, Monsieur Merde break down cultural perception of what is normal, to him it is normal of a having Hijab fashion show. The file in the car that tell Monsieur Oscar his next assignment is a movie script, the car is like a transition from one sequence into another, moving in time, to the past, to the future, in which even the graves, even when one is dead, one express, “Visit my Website”, the address on the stones. The film open with an audience being hypnotized, they are watching a film, cinema as a hypnotizer, the man is born out of a projector room. You even have an intermission in the middle of the film, Even music is present within its historical content, masterful build up of instrumental music from the basic. Characters are re-creation of a creation, they take over each other’s personality, the murder scene; the murder take over the identity of the victim and vise versa. When the director ask Monsieur Oscar if he still enjoy his job, that of acting, “I’m asking, because some of us think you have looked a bit tired recently. Some don’t believe what they are watching recently” Oscar answers, “I miss the cameras. They used to be heavier than us, then they became smaller than our heads, no you can’t see them at all. So sometimes I too find it hard to believe in it all”, as cinema used to be visual, nowadays they only need microphones than cameras. The director ask again, “Isn’t this nostalgia a bit sentimental?”, It is indeed, if one truly love what cinema once where, one can’t help feeling nostalgic in reflecting upon it. Denis Lavant is a great actor, he act with his body, his eyes, with gestures only, a twisting in the eyes, a move of the shoulder, a perfect classic actor, very few of them around nowadays. He is perfect as Monsieur Oscar, an actor stuck on the screen, each day is a new one but its actions is one that is rehearsed, each night a different house become his home, different characters his wife, lovers, children, friends and enemies, be it real, surreal, abstract, or even plain pure fantasy, he is a man with 11 lives and counting, he is cinema’s creation and nothing more, the most beautiful and deceptive of a manipulative in emotions of all arts. A Masterpiece.

The Deep Blue Sea (Terence Davies, 2012)

The Deep Blue Sea (Terence Davies, 2012)

The Deep Blue Sea (Terence Davies, 2012) Ah, the good old love melodrama of the 50s is back with a touch of Davies; the overexposed lightbulb, the rainy pavement, the flashbacks, the good oldies pop music playing on the background and those characters with those lines that are only possible in the realm of the fictions, that can become laughable if it were not at the hand of masters like Sirk, Fassbinder and in the case of The Deep Blue Sea, Terence Davies. Marvelous, in class with the classic melodramas.

In Another Country (Sang-soo Hong, 2012)

In Another Country (Sang-soo Hong, 2012)

In Another Country (Sang-soo Hong, 2012) There is an honesty in examining relationships in Sang-soo Hong’s film, that very few filmmakers manages to achieve, like Eric Rohmer, he is a distance observer, never forcing himself as a director in manipulating character’s behavior, same is true with the dialogues, it flows out of the character’s mouth and not a written script, improvisation is the trick, like his use of zoom in and out, he examine these relationship, be it a husband to a wife, or total strangers to each with little details, combined with a improvisation in the dialogue, and the acting, that is almost as gestural as in a Tati film, it create comic scenes in which the adults behave like children, even their cruel behaviors are funny, they live in a world of behaving, one person can have multiple identity from once scene into another, that is why Anne (Isabelle Huppert) play different role with each character and within each scene, at times cruel, at time gentle, it is no surprise that she play different role in the film, repeating of the same scenes and characters, but each time differently; she is an actor first, playing a role in “please be my friend” game, as she is chased by two men, she is running away from both, but respectfully, then she is a rich wife, having an affair, playing “follow the leader”, that is, in her imagination, the third one, is a combination of the two, the quite one and the imaginative one, that is where the best scene occurs; Anne having a rhetorical and dialectical conversation with a monk that define what the film is all about. Priceless.

Caesar Must Die aka Cesare deve morire (Paolo Taviani, Vittorio Taviani, 2012)

Caesar Must Die aka Cesare deve morire (Paolo Taviani, Vittorio Taviani, 2012)

Caesar Must Die aka Cesare deve morire (Paolo Taviani, Vittorio Taviani, 2012) Shakespeare and Cinema are very fond of each other, but it takes great courage for a a filmmaker to renew and adopt Shakespeare to fit the time, so it is with Caesar Must Die, one of the best adaptation of any Shakespearian play that I have seen in a long time, with its simplicity in use of sets, non-professional actors and realism that put to shame the over-the-top and glamorous Hollywood and Kenneth Branagh’s recent adaptation of Shakespeare. The intertwining of documentary, fiction and a play within a play in not something new, but to have it done in a real prison with real inmate, that is something special. The black and white cinematography, the interior of the prison, the raw faces, the amateur performance, it all give a realism in brutality to the film that fit best Shakespeare’s Julius Cesar, it give it a truth that one rarely find in a play, as the performance on the stage became as real as the one on the screen.

The Angels’ Share (Ken Loach, 2012)

The Angels’ Share (Ken Loach, 2012)

The Angels’ Share (Ken Loach, 2012) Loach’s cinema can be cruel, but comically cruel, his masterpiece, Kes, is a tragedy in comedy with not a so happy ending, The Angels’ Share is also a tragedy in comedy but with a happy ending, something that Loach rarely does in his films. When in 2011, during the UK youth riot, the debate raged on, on both side, some condemning the young “thugs”, others defending the “dissatisfied youth”, but none wanted to understand these youth, but Loach understand them, and The Angels’ Share is an examination of the inner-city youths, be it a group of young Glaswegian, the story could have been in London or any other town in any other place, they live in a world in which they struggle to find a decent place to sleep, but a world, in which the price of a bottle of whiskey can go as high a £100,000, in a world in which social appearance and character’s one’s past mistake can hunt one forever.

The Loneliest Planet (Julia Loktev, 2012)The Loneliest Planet (Julia Loktev, 2012) I once showed Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker to a friend, after watching it, she said, “The film has a beautiful cinematography, but nothing happens it it”, well, first we have to define what “nothing is”, if three people walking is “something” and it is not “nothing”, then Stalker got something, for it got lots of walking in it, same is true for The Loneliest Planet, it got lots of walking, it got something. To my knowledge, this is Julia Loktev’s second feature film, and my first encounter with her cinema. The Loneliest Planet is similar to Stalker, take out the poetry and the philosophy of Tarkovksy and you got a cheap imitation of the film, not only does the guide person is similar in look to the Stalker, but also is the landscape, the style of the film, the camera moving around, chasing the characters, like a magnet, dragging them along, the whispers, the silence, the music, it is all there,  in Stalker, the three take a trip into a world of the unknown Zone, each searching for something, they each have a past, look forward to the future, in The Loneliest Planet, the three are searching for nothing, as they travel the Caucasus mountains, we don’t know about their past, nor their future, the only time that future is mentioned is when the guide talk about his desire to have a “four wheel car”, or when asking the girl which country she has not traveled too, but just as Stalker is a grandeur symphony, The Loneliest Planet is a piece of chamber music, each scene is like an instrument, it stand out, but without the other instrument, it lack a definite sound, it take to finishing the film to get a whole prospect of the beauty of it.

Great ones from 2011, that I watched in 2012:

Faust (Alexander Sokurov, 2011)

Faust (Alexander Sokurov, 2011)

Faust (Alexander Sokurov, 2011) There are many film adaptation of Goethe’s Faust, the best that I had seen had always been F.W Murnau’s Faust, for it is a fantasy adaptation with no desire to be realistic or true to the book. Sokurov’s Faust is equal in power to that of Murnau, it is a film that only a philosopher of a poet could make it, as complex in nature as Eisenstein’s Ivan the Terrible, Sokurov create a world that on the surface seems like a realistic portrayal of the world of Faust, but underneath, it is a metaphor for Faust’s inner dilemmas, so what you end up seeing on the screen, is a world of two, always in conflict with each other, that of the reality and that of the poetic, the outer illusion of what you see, and the inner conflict within it, the battle instead of good and evil become that of the inner and the outer realization of a metaphorical world within Faust, it is a majestic and hypnotizing watch.

Elena (Andrey Zvyagintsev, 2011)

Elena (Andrey Zvyagintsev, 2011)

Elena (Andrey Zvyagintsev, 2011) Zvyagintsev tell a story like a novelist, if he had been born centuries earlier, before the age of cinema, he could have a masterful novelist, perhaps equal in psychology to Doestvosky and in detail to Turgenev. As much as the critics in the West tried their best to make a political film out of Elena, or to describe the world of the film as existing only in the streets of Moscow, it is not so, the streets, the characters and the houses could have been in any modern city of any country in today’s world, Zvyagintsev never been a political filmmaker, rather, his films are an examination of characters in relationship with each others, on the outside pretending to be something, but deep down, they are in turmoil; in The Return, is an examination of a Father’s inner turmoil relationship with his two sons, in The Banishment, a husband to a wife. In Elena, the inner turmoil of the wife is not only psychologically driven by her world being inferior to that of her husband, for she comes from a proletariat class compared to her rich husband, but there is also a mysterious motive of love in her, the love for her children and also the hatred for her husband’s daughter that drive her to commit murder. It is a murder that arises from inner motive hidden inside her, she is not Raskolnikov, she has never imagined, nor planned to murder, it arises from a moment of passion, a split second decision that she think is an act of righteousness. We never truly understand the protagonist in Elena, she remain a mystery, psychologically, we only understand her through her little actions; cleaning the room, cooking, watching TV, shopping, walking, taking a train, it is these little action that show her characters, same is true for the Father in The Return, and the husband in The Banishment, they are mysterious characters that we get a short glimpse of in the cinema cinema of Zvyagintsev, a world with its look dominated by the colors of blue, yellow and white, beautiful cinema. Masterpiece.

Le Havre (Aki Kaurismaki, 2011)

Le Havre (Aki Kaurismaki, 2011)

Le Havre (Aki Kaurismaki, 2011) I have to make a confession; I cried at the end of Le Havre, the miracles of a wife being resurrected, a cheery tree blooming in mid winter is Kaurismaki’s optimistic vision of the cinematic possibility of a miracle, if Chaplin has made a film today, it would had been Le Havre, for the heart and the deep rooted sentimentality of the film is pure Chaplin, one good deed from one person can have a profound impact on others, and that is why, the ending of Le Havre is as powerful as that of City Light, we as the viewer are faced with truth that is hard to accept, but we know it is possible, the most optimistic work of Kaurismaki do date.

The Turin Horse (Bela Tarr, 2011)

The Turin Horse (Bela Tarr, 2011)

The Turin Horse (Bela Tarr, 2011) Two years ago, Belcourt Theatre in Nashville showed 35mm print of Tarr’s Satantango, more than six hours in length, it was shown in two part with a break for lunch between, it was a great experience in watching one of the best  film of the 90s. As for The Turin Horse, I had if for more than a year, a Digital copy of the film, but I did not watch it , for I waited for a the blue-ray version of the film to appear, because it is a sin to watch Tarr film in a low quality version, or on a computer screen, you miss the beauty of it. The Turin Horse is supposedly Tarr’s last film, and no, it is not a story about Nietzsche, and neither it is it of a horse, like the big whale in Werckmeister Harmonies, the horse is only a character that our main characters evolve around it, almost like a pivot, it is the story of a Father and the Daughter, but more than anything, The Turin Horse is an examination of little details that made life once life, little action define the Father and the Daughter; cutting of the wood, building the fire, cooking the potato, washing the cloth, removing the skin of the hot potato, eating the potato, drying up the cloth, getting water from the well, getting dressed, getting undressed, loading a cart, and unloading it, feeding the horse, etc. There is also the action of doing nothing, just sitting and staring, it is a beautiful artificial world that only cinema can produce, and Tarr is bold about it; it is windy, everything in the frame move by the wind, but the trees on the background are not moving, artificial, those long tracking shot that seem to be pushing the character away from us, yet, always following them, beautiful black and white cinematography, the wide room that is a cinematic stage, every prop in it place to utmost detail, like Dryer’s composition, very clean. There is purity in the look of the film, either black, or white, with a light shade of gray. Everything has weight of equal significant in a Tarr film; a character walking, talking, doing something, doing nothing, his face to us, his back to us, a room full of characters or an empty room, a leaf flying amid the wind, it is all equally giving the same time and space on the screen, he is not as a perfectionist as Hitchcock when telling a story, he is rather imperfect of storyteller, but such a lack of perfection in the narrative make his films ever more a meditative watch that leave you with lasting impression, just as Hitchcock always let the viewer knows as much as the characters in the film or even more, when characters look, we see what they are looking at, or a times, we see things that the character never see, we are ahead of them, Tarr does the opposite, we never know what the characters know, let alone know more than them, when they look, they stare, but we never know what they are staring at, we have to guess it, but they are both master filmmakers, because they use the tool of the trade to the extreme edge, in doing so, they reach perfection. What emotion the characters lack in the film is made up for it by the music of Vig Mihaly, almost a silent film orchestral music accommodating the film. As for the dialogue, there are few, for the Father and Daughter in the film live by action and not dialogue, when a visitor talk about the philosophical edge of doom, after a long talk, the Father simply tells him, “Come on, that is rubbish”, words mean nothing to them, only action.  Tarr should have been making film in the 50s and 60s, in the days when the giants of cinema made their best, he belong with them, with; Bresson, Bunuel, Ozu, Bergman, Kurosawa, Mizoguchi, Ford, Hawks, Welles, Ray, Dreyer, Antonioni, etc. Tarr’s last film, his farewell to cinema is a beautiful one, and he shall be missed.

Bir Zamanlar Anadolu'da aka Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (Nuri Bilge Ceylan, 2011)

Bir Zamanlar Anadolu’da aka Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (Nuri Bilge Ceylan, 2011)

Bir Zamanlar Anadolu’da aka Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (Nuri Bilge Ceylan, 2011) Everything in Once Upon a Time in Anatolia is hidden, the emotion of the characters are not what they are shown to us through their lengthy dialogue, rather, it is underneath, Ceylan like Tarkovsky, show us that emotion silently through the use of his camera. Like a symphony, the silence is the emotion, the film is divided almost mathematically in various bets of silence, silence in which the camera take on a life of its on as it observe, search, shows the hidden emotion, and it is for the viewer to find. Like Chekhov’s main characters in his stories, the main characters in Once Upon a Time in Anatolia keep their essential emotion to themselves, they are the heart of the film, the Prosecutor and the Doctor. You may call Once Upon a Time in Anatolia as Ceylan’s epic film, more than 2 hour and a half in length, it is a combination of everything that Ceylan had shown in us the past, the landscapes of Kiarostami that dominate Climates, the many tributes to Tarkovsky as in Clouds of May and Kasaba, the Doestovsky’s psychological attitude of the characters in Uzak and Üç Maymun, take all that and add the dark territory of Yilmaz Guney to Once Upon a Time in Anatolia and you have not just a Ceylan’s masterful take on the crime/detective genre, but also, his first epic film. Masterful.

Drive (Nicholas Winding, 2011)

Drive (Nicholas Winding, 2011)

Drive (Nicholas Winding, 2011) What makes Drive such a thrilling watch comes down to its smart combination of genres and styles, characters right out of American cinema of 70s, story of a loner out of European cinema of 60s, a musical soundtrack of 80, mix it with the stylish influence of Wong Kar Wai, combine all that with a tragic Greek play rather than a story, and in Drive you get a thrilling watch, despite the few flows in the film in which the violent is stretched to the limit, it is one to watch.

Another Earth (Mike Cahill, 2011)

Another Earth (Mike Cahill, 2011)


Another Earth
(Mike Cahill, 2011) Well, now you know what it is like to mash together Stanley Kubrick and Krzysztof Kieslowski, you get Another Earth, with its psychological power to grab the viewer into a tale of guilt and redemption mashed into a science-fiction genre with masterfully staged scenes that are equal in power to 2001: A Space odyssey, it has been a while that a film could move a viewer into the edge of wonder watching a scene so powerful and other worldly as the first contact scene between this Earth with Earth 2 in Another Earth, equally powerful to that of Hal 9000 in 2001. For a small budget film, produced, directed, acted, edited and shot with only a handful staff, it is a truly a wonder film to watch, emotionally powerful as it is intellectually manipulative that put to shame a million time a big-budget film like Melancholia. Another Earth is not to be missed.

Meeks Cutoff (Kelly Reichardt, 2011)

Meeks Cutoff (Kelly Reichardt, 2011)

Meeks Cutoff (Kelly Reichardt, 2011) It has been more than a decade that I had seen a Western so fresh, new and revisionist as Meeks Cutoff. One has to go back to Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man (1995), as the last great western. A genre never die, but a great film in a genre should always reinvent itself, and it takes Reichardt to do so. With a story-line that mix between Wellman’s Yellow Sky and Ford’s Wagon Masters, Reichardt add a new dimension to the story, that of knowing, asking questions at every turn, just like the history of the West, with its dark tragic past, its brutal treatment of the Native, the guilt of that history that is that nothing short of genocidal, always hidden, rarely questioned with it’s muddy historical accuracy, the film almost become a mediation into that history, a road taken with no end in sight, and the only vision is that of a Native Indian, in which we are unable to communicate, yet it lead us into that unknown territory.

Margaret (Kenneth Lonergan, 2011)

Margaret (Kenneth Lonergan, 2011)

Margaret (Kenneth Lonergan, 2011) Margaret is a film about guilt, the inability to face one’s guilt, one of the basic emotion of human, and the opening credit of the film set the tone for it; Tarrega’s lyrical music, Recuerdos de la Alhambra set to the slow motion of a crowd walking the street of NY, the camera is in search of a protagonist, one among the crowd, we find our protagonist, not on the street, but in a classroom, Lisa, a teenager becoming an adult, like all other teenager in the film, she is emotionally in turmoil, unstable, a snub, always arguing for the opposite view just for the sake of arguing, she love debating, love letting other people down, she have a prejudice and limited view of others, even racist when it comes to her view of Arabs and Muslims, she doesn’t like Californian, telling her father, “I don’t go for the Californian type”, as if all the Californian were the same, she even hate Opera, because she “don’t like that kind of singing”, she generalize everything, but she know nothing, she call people “strident” without knowing what the word itself means, if someone is kind to her, she think they want something from her, but if someone ignore her, she is attracted to them, she exchange the boy who is in love with her for a guy for a one night stand, she calculate all her moves, yet always end up in the wrong, a simple search for a cowboy hat bring ever lasting grief not upon herself only, but countless others, she become a different person. The bus incident is the heart of the film, everything in the film evolve around it, that is why it is shot so realistically compare to the the artificiality of other scenes, poor woman, she has been hit by a bus, at first she think she is dead, she is in shock, but when she realize she is dying, she does not want to go, it is hard to portray death, or the moment of dying, that is why the dialogue is so important between the woman dying and Lisa, it get the viewer’s empathy for the two of them, the only time that the viewer sympathize with Lisa, for seeing one dying in front of you is more shocking than hearing about it, when it is a stranger, it is less emotional, as one hear daily of many victims of war, famines, car crashes, murder, etc,  they are a mere number, but when face to face, they are human being, and not just a number, that is why others have a hard time relating to the incident as Lisa does, for grief is personal and comes from one experiencing it, she has a hard time herself dealing with it, because she has never cared for anybody or anything truthfully,  and those few caring emotional moment with the woman become a paradox for her, her action to erase that guilt for the rest of the film make it even hard for the viewer to sympathize with her, she becomes more of a despicable of a character, because she can’t face the reality in herself, she always pretending, full of fakery, but others see through her, and when they do, all she has to show, is anger, because she is incapable of loving, her mother is no better than her, she is an exact copy, she care more about the first day opening of her play than her daughter’s emotional turmoil, both selfish, caring only for oneself, and her father is another snob, every time he call her, he ask her about “the boyfriend situation”, dysfunctional family at its best, they are cold and heartless, and New York is also cold in the film, distance, and emotionless. The guilt of Lisa is what drive the film, because she was the cause of a death, that guilt make her to lie, not in order to save the driver from punishment, but as a small token of redemption for herself, but its no redemption as she find out, and being a snob, she want to find something to pass the guilt to, for she can’t face the reality within herself, of being guilty, of the inner punishment, she goes as far as to ask the driver to share her guilt equally if not more to lessen her burden, when she fails, she wash one guilt with another one, by wanting to punish the driver, to make him suffer her guilt, to take her responsibility,  that is her inner struggle that clashes with outer world, of being guilty and wanting to escape from it, she is annoying not only to everyone in the film, but also to the viewer. Lisa, she is evil, just as nobody in the film want to understand her, so it is with the viewer, she is one character that the viewer love to hate, one of the most despicable character of recent films, and when she lose, her breakdown of confessing to the guilt become a triumph for the viewer; watching the guilty pleasure of her downfall, as more guilt is added to what she suffers from already, at the end, it is the music of Offenbach’s Tales of Hoffman that closes the film, again the camera searches, this time on the stage, its camera searches among the crowd again, but it easily find Lisa, she is sitting there, she has become one of the crowd.

Young Adult (Jason Reitman, 2011)

Young Adult (Jason Reitman, 2011)

Young Adult (Jason Reitman, 2011) You may call Young Adult a modern day take on Don Quixote and Sancho Panza; Quixote is a middle aged woman, Mavis Gary, Panza being a former high school friend of her, now on crutches, and Dulcinea del Toboso is her former high school boyfriend whom she now chasing.  Mavis pretend to be a successful writer, when not busy writing stories for teenagers, she is watching TV, and the television is always on some reality show on teenagers, she still live in a world of of her high school days, but her friends, and her former town passed that stage many years ago, she take a journey back to her town, to get her former boyfriend back.  One of the best  scene in the film is when she driving around the town, looking for a decent place to eat dinner, as she looks, it gets worse, all she sees is KenTacoHut; KCF, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut, and her face drops more into a dreary mood, shaking her head in disbelief.  She was once popular in her little town, in her high school, now living far away, in Minneapolis, she seem to belief that she is leading a fast life in a big city, think of others who are leading a normal life in her former small town as boring, she is a snob, or pretend to be one, she is all appearance, leading an empty life, even if she is a failure, she pretend otherwise, she is always faking it, never could face reality, even when in a bar, she pretend to be busy with her cellphone, typing gibberish, but deep inside, she wishes to be in their shoes. To her love is like in the movies, like The Graduate, she still listen to oldies music, she write for teenagers, she is still a teenager lost in the body and mind of a middle aged woman, so it is no wonder that she can’t expect the fact that the guy she was once in love with in high school is married now and has a child,  worse, she can’t imagine he would love his child and his wife, for she think, everyone is selfish like herself, she still think he is meant to be for her, as she shout, “Love conquers all”. She get ready for her date with the guy, put on her best dress, does her hair, manicure, massage, like a first date, but the guy live in a different world, after so many years, meeting again, he invite her to meet in a sport bar, he walk into the bar wearing his home dress, unshaven, sleepy, yet, she still want him, she talk to him romantically, repeat the same sentences she hear from teenager in the street. She star spying on him and his family life, with his old body from high school, both perfect as Don Quixote and Sancho Panza; she is a Quixote who is always fantasizing, but Panza alway bring her back to reality, but despite being such a snob and liar, toward the end, like Quixote, you  can’t help feeling sorry for her, as her fantasy world become the cruel reality she has been running away from all her life, but as it turn out, her fantasy world might just as well be equal if not better than the reality of the people that live in at her small town pretending to be happy.

We Need to Talk About Kevin (Lynne Ramsay, 2011)

We Need to Talk About Kevin (Lynne Ramsay, 2011)

We Need to Talk About Kevin (Lynne Ramsay, 2011) Watching We Need to Talk About Kevin feels like watching an experimental music video; from orchestral, to bluegrass, country, folks, pop, chorus, classic, rock, classic rock, to the great Lonnie Donegan and Buddy Holly,to Zen, back to bluegrass, with the most memorable of all the tracks being; Washington Phillip’ Mother’s Last Word To Her Son. Coming from Lynne Ramsay, a former photographer, the images in films are still photographs in motion, making the film a combination a dozen or so bits and pieces of experimental filmmaking; with tomatoes and red color being the pivot between the shots, be it tomatoes, catchup, Campbell tomato soup, or egg and tomato omelet, no kidding. It is a bizarre film on a dysfunctional family seemingly leading a normal life. The story of a woman that hate being a mother so much, that she prefer the sound of a drilling machine to that of her baby son crying, Kevin and her Mother seem to be competing as to which one of them is the most despised person in the film, like mother, like son. An arty version of The Omen in the examination of a hate relationship between a Mother and a Son, even the society, the people surrounding the two seem more abnormal than the two, but Kevin, spoiled brat, stand up above the rest, he has to be one of the most despicable character of recent films, yet, after committing the atrocities, he comes out into the spotlight, like a rock star, a decent portrayal of a society in love with violent.

The Descendants (Alexander Payne, 2011)

The Descendants (Alexander Payne, 2011)

The Descendants (Alexander Payne, 2011) Alexander Payne set out in The Descendants to make a film about a character who is in a coma, suffering, yet, she is the one that causes the most pain upon the others, making her the most unattractive character in the film. Unlike the many heavy handed sentimental films about the same subject, common to the genre, at the end of The Descendants, Payne arrives at creating one of the most sentimental film of the last few years, for the characters are real three dimensional figures, they all have their faults, cruelty and inner most darkest desires, shown in the most cruelest and humors ways, that reminds one of the cinema of Fellini, but at the end, when the sentimentality arrives, they do care, and we do care, and it is those sincere moments of showing of caring produce an emotional ending to a dark film of a comedy, and we, as viewer, feel it, even if its a short glimpse.

Bernie (Richard Linklater, 2011)

Bernie (Richard Linklater, 2011)

Bernie (Richard Linklater, 2011) There is a short story by Anton Chekhov titled The Duel; in which the the main character in the story is in a relationship with a woman whom he care deeply about, but despise her even more, while eating lunch, he suddenly notice the way she is eating the food, he is displeased by her “white open neck and the little curls at the back of her head”, and a sudden hatred in despise arise him, at that second he recall Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, “And he remembered that when Anna Karenina got tired of her husband, what she disliked most of all was his ears, and thought: ‘How true it is, how true!’”, and a feeling of contempt in him lead him to sympathize with those who kill their mistress, but he does not go that far, but Bernie does, poor Bernie; a man who everyone love, everyone want to be with, one that seem to be only capable of loving others before oneself, but end up with the one person (Shirley MacLaine is brilliant in the role of the cold, old, rich widow) who is incapable of love, and a split second  is enough for Bernie to act violently; that split second is seeing her chewing the food more that is take to be chewed at lunch table, that is the officially story of the film that everyone in the town love to tell; but can a man like that really exist?, or was he really a monster of an actor that managed to fool a small town and also fool the viewer, as the prosecutor puts it , “There is no doubt in my mind Bernie Tiede is a calculating evil actor”. The genius of the film is the script, the mashing of the holy and the absurd, when a character talk seriously, suddenly a punch line underline the seriousness in the dialogue, when Bernie is been integrated, he confess to the crime “I shot poor Mrs. Nugent four times. With the armadillo gun”, the Sheriff asks, “Then what?”, “Well, then the Lord called her Home”, or when one of her old lady friend try to disclaim the rumors that Bernie might have been a “queer”, because he wore sandals all the time, and he was not married; “Our Lord and Savior always wore sandals and he never married. And he had 12 disciples, and I don`t think any of them ever married. And you never heard anybody in the New Testament say that they was a bunch of queers”, but the genius of Linklater is to take the documentary genre and twist it to a degree that is still manipulative, not to to a degree of a mockumentary, but a fictional take on a narrative story of a  film that uses all the manipulative tool of a documentary; the direct interview, the  juxtaposition in imagery, newsreel tradition, take on mondo films, mixing of the experiential strand and the interview strand, to create a masterful film of a black comedy, with genuine realistic characters of a fictional creation. I lived in the South and I could pinpoint many of the character in the film as some that I have one encountered, and I couldn’t help but murmur to myself, “How true it is, how true!”

………………………………………………………………………………

Cinematic ocean is so deep that as you dive to it, you come upon gem after gem, here the precious gems that I discovered (re-discovered) the past year:

The Big Parade (King Vidor, 1925)

The Big Parade (King Vidor, 1925)

The Big Parade (King Vidor, 1925) I vividly recall the first time I watched The Big Parade; I checked the film out of the library, it was an old VHS tape, and from the first frame of the film to the last, I was glowed to the screen, for two hours, I did not move from my place, and when the scene came along of John Gilbert in the trenches captures the German soldier, he has already wounded him, for the first time he sees the face of his enemy, he want to kill him to revenge his friends, but he realize he is just a man like himself, and this realization only lead him to more contempt; he light a cigarette to the dying German solider, all the time, pushing his head back forth as if telling him, “You are just like me, why is that? Why should I kill you?”, as I watched that long take of the two of them in the trench, one dying at the hand of other, neither knowing why, nor on how to behave. I could not help repeating to myself loudly, “What a scene, what a genius Vidor is, what genius filmmaking”, and when the end scene came along; the son return, with one leg missing, the poor mother, old and gray, as they embrace each other, flashback over the scene of the son as little child taking his first step, I could not help being moved to the edge of tears, such beauty, honesty and truth in a film is hard to find in today’s cinema, and those battles scenes, even today, more than 80 years later, they are still among the most beautifully choreographed battles scenes ever to have been captured on the screen, they are like symphonies, beat by beat, they build up into a harmonic climax. Genius film.

By the Law aka Po zakonu (Lev Kuleshov, 1926)

By the Law aka Po zakonu (Lev Kuleshov, 1926)

By the Law aka Po zakonu (Lev Kuleshov, 1926) As a kid, I was madly in love with the world of Jack London, in cold winter nights, I used to read his works under a lamp or a candle light, what a great feeling it was, I must have read White Fang at least three times. The world of Jack London is exotic, but it is cold, not just the snowy landscape, but also the inner soul of his characters, he was not a writer who could write about the inner demons of his characters in such prose as Doestovsky or Turgenev, instead, he wrote naturalistically, using the landscape and the natural forces as a reflection of that souls, human struggle for survival against not only extreme natural forces, but also one another, even if escaping the law of society, man cannot escape the law of other men in condemnation, as it is in his short story, The Unexpected, in which By the Law is based upon. Even in the remote landscape of Yukon, human condemn others in the name of law and religion, in the hand of Kuleshov, Jack London’s story became a psychological struggle within the soul of three characters, the extreme natural forces in the background only awaken the demon in them more, into a point of becoming unbearable to tolerate one another, even there, Queen Victoria condemn men to death, the law of the jungle seem more tolerant than that of humanity, just under an hour in length, By the Law is among the best of silent Kuleshov.

The Holy Mountain (Leni Riefenstahl, 1926)

The Holy Mountain (Leni Riefenstahl, 1926)

The Holy Mountain (Leni Riefenstahl, 1926) All praise to Leni Riefenstahl as a film director, but what a lousy actor and a dancer she is in The Holy Mountain. What she lack in acting and dancing in the film is taken care of by the beautiful and lyrical cinematography in the film, what a beautiful film. The story of the sea, the mountain, the snow, add to them a triangular love affair and man’s conflict and harmony with nature. Cinema by nature is a medium that once took its inspiration at birth from theater, the horizontal space is what most directors like to photograph and stage their mes-en scene, but in The Holy Mountain, Riefenstahl does the opposite, everything seem to be photographed and composed vertically, even the depth staging is vertically stages, Riefenstahl goes to the extreme as to mask the frame into vertical lines, that is what give the unique beauty to the film. Not to be missed. Continue reading

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Thalassemia: Shadow of Death

©KarzanKardoziI have seen many houses in my time, traveled many places, many cities, towns and villages since my childhood, and each time revisiting the places, I had noticed many changes in them, from tragic to that of joy, but one of the houses that had always kept a vivid memory in me, the changes in that  house, of the people in the house, has been so tragic, that just thinking of it make my heart heavy.

The house, or rather, the mud house that once were, is located in the upper northern part of the Shadala village, a 45 minute care ride from the city of Suliaimani now, but in the old days, it took half a day to reach it; the house with its mud roof, gray walls and big rooms looks upon the whole village as towering figure. The first time I visited the house was many years ago, I was a little kid of seven, I remember vividly playing Football on the roof of the house with other kids, every few minutes the ball would roll down into the ground, down into the village, across the streets, one of the us had to make the long journey of bringing the ball back.

Every summer, with my father, we would make a journey to Shadala village, for my grandmother was from the village, and most of my Father’s distance relative reside there. The house belonged to kak Ahmed, he was a distance cousin of my father. It was my first visit to the house, and I remembers it very distinctly.

©KarzanKardoziWhen we got to the house, my Father left me alone in a little room, as he went with kak Ahmed to visit the village, I sat in a corner, shy, not knowing what to do, until a little woman of forty, the wife of kaka Ahmed walked into the room, seeing me sitting alone, she shouted to his little son, who was playing outside, “Come and play with Haji Sharif’s son”. Everyone in the village, then, and even know, referred to me as “Haji Sharif’s Son”, for my father is almost like a cult figure among the people of the village.

Her son, Rejan, was of the same age as me, skinny with green eyes, he seemed fragile and pale, we became friend right away. He told me about a beehive they had, and being mischief of a boy, I wanted to see the hive, he took me to it, all the time telling me on the way not to touch it. I picked up a stick, into the hive, suddenly, bees everywhere, attacking, a few bite here and there, I started to cry as loud as possible, all the time, Rejan trying his best to comfort me, “It is nothing, look, I got bitten many times”, he took a handful of mud and put it on the places where I was bitten, comforting me, “It is nothing”

Five minute later I was sitting on a big soft carpet, eating lunch with the family. There were smell of freshly baked bread, goat milk and chess, sweet honey and hot tea. On the mud walls, hang three portraits; two young boys and a little girl, on the corner of the room, the mother was sewing little socks for Rejan, now and them, she would look at us with a smile.

After dinner, I could not help but whisper to my Father; as to whom the people in the pictures were? “They were the children of kaka Ahmed”, but as I looked across the room, there were only Rejan, his older brother, Ibrahim and younger sister, Sazan, and the pictures on the wall were not of them, “Where are they now”?, I whispered again to my father, “They are dead”, he whispered back to me.

On the way back home, my Father explained to me the tragic story of kak Ahmed; As a young man, he had married his cousin, and living in the countryside, the place lacked medical facility, and even in the cities back then, there were no such things as “screening tests” or “blood testing” nor “genetic testing” for newly weeded couple. The tragedy is that their blood did not match, whenever they had children, they’ll have thalassemia, an inherited disease occurring primarily among people of Mediterranean descent, that is caused by defective formation of part of the hemoglobin molecule, it cause in increasing numbers of red blood cells, the only cure is to have blood transfusions every month in order to keep the children alive. They had three children, and each of them died when they reached the age of 18, a painful slow death, for the multiple transfusions needed to sustain life lead to an iron overload throughout the tissues of the body and eventual destruction of the heart and other organs. But, they kept having children, hoping; at least one of them would be born healthy, but none were. Each month they had to have blood transfusion for the children, but even that was helpless, for by the time they reach the age of 18, they would die a slow painful death. “Will Rejan die when he is 18?”, I asked my father, he was silent for a while, then in a whisper, “God only knows”.  I felt desperate and sad, knowing that the young boy whom I had just become friend, so full of life, will die when he is 18, and no one could do anything about it.

Shadala in 2005

Shadala in 2005

I left for America few years later, forgetting all about Rejan. 11 years later after my first visit, I returned to the house again with my father, the same mud house, with the roof looking down on the village, as I entered the house I heard the same “Haji Sharif’s Son” echo through it, they recognized me at once, the mother kept looking at me, “You are grown so tall”, sadness in her voice, her green eyes full of sorrow, her hair was already getting grey. There was the same smell of freshly baked bread, goat milk and chess, sweet honey and hot tea, but yet, there was a change; beside the portrait of three children, hung a portrait of little Rejan, his death had occurred a year before. Reminiscences began, as I looked at the portrait; I recalled Rejan’s smiling face, and his ringing voice, comforting me when I was bitten by the bees, “It is nothing”. I had to walk out of the room, as I knew if I had stayed any longer, I would burst into tears. Maybe I reminded the mother of Rojan, or maybe she knew about my grief, for as I left the room, she began to shed tears, I could hear her crying.

At dinner, I sat beside Ibrahim, despite being older than Rojan, he had outlived him, he was 23, but he already looked like an old man; his face wrinkled, yellowish, with no color in his skin, yet, he was as cheerful as Rojan, laughing all the time in a ringing voice that reminded me of Rejan. His younger sister, Sazan also looked much older than her age; she also had beautiful green eyes, just like Rejan and her mother. Each month, they both needed new blood transfusion.  I looked at the mother on the corner, she was breast feeding a new baby, a new girl, kaka Ahmed kept saying that the Doctor had told them that his new girl needed no blood transfusion, was healthy to live a long life, but the doctor was not sure nor was kak Ahmed. When we drove home this time, I did not ask my father any question, we both kept silent.

Shadala in 2012

Shadala in 2012

A few days ago, once again, I visited the little house, alone this time; it was for the wedding of kaka Ahmed’s nephew, I had promised the groom to take picture at his wedding, and as I was busy taking pictures, a beautiful, green eyed little girl of 7 ran up to me, with her ringing voice, she shouted to me, “Are you Haji Sharif’s son?”, “Yes, I’m, and who you might be?”, “I’m Suzan”, “Well, Suzan khan, who is your father?”, “My Father is Ahmed?”. There it was, little Suzan, she had the same green eyes as that of Rejan, the same cheerful smile. “Can you take some picture of me? Please”. I took more than a dozen pictures of little Suzan, all the time a dreadful though in me kept growing, is she also sick? That evening, I went back to the house, no longer a mud house; a two story modern brick house, with all the modern convenience furniture decorating the place. Walking to the room, I saw the mother, she was sitting on a sofa sewing, the television was on, little Suzan was watching a cartoon of Tom and Jerry, on seeing me, the mother stood, “Haji Sharif’s Son”, her hairs all gray now, she was already an old woman.

©KarzaKardoziI sat beside kaka Ahmed at dinner, the room was crowded, many people from the wedding party coming in and going out of the room, laughter and cheerful smiles. I had the burning desire to ask kak Ahmed about little Suzan, was she was sick or not? but I dared not too. Looking at the portraits on the wall, there were now seven pictures, beside Rejan, there were also Ibrahim and Sazan and another little girl that I did not recognize. Seeing me observing the pictures, kaka Ahmed asked, “You were friend with Rejan and Ibrahim?”, “Yes, I was”

 I felt uncomfortable, and trying to change the subject, I asked him, “I didn’t know Suzan was your daughter, I took some great pictures of her at the weeding, from whom did she get such beautiful eyes?”, “From her Mother’s side of the family”, kaka Ahmed said with a smile, looking at her wife.

©KarzanKardoziI found him a cheerful man, always smiling, despite the fact that he had to live with  the agony of losing seven children. “You know, my little Rejan had the same eyes as hers, he was beautiful like her, and he was so smart, he had the brain of a grownup man. One time I took him to the city to get a blood transfusion, it was during the time of Iraq-Iran war, we went to all the civilian hospital in the city, none had any blood, and my little Rejan was already weak, he couldn’t walk, I had to carry him on my back, I feared for his life, and I became desperate, searching from one hospital to another, but he kept comforting me, ‘”we will find it daddy”’, he kept saying. I managed to get a piece of paper from a Doctor, allowing me to get blood from the military hospital in the city, back them, the Azadi park was an Iraqi military hospital. We had to walk an hour to get there, all the time carrying Rejan on my back, and he kept kissing me on the neck, ‘”we will find it daddy’”. When we got to the hospital, the place was like hell on earth, Iraqi choppers flying in and out, brining in the wounded and carrying out the dead, the road leading to the hospital was like a bloody river, red from blood of wounded and dead soldiers laying around. When I saw that, my knee gave in, I told Rejan that they will never give us blood with all the  wounded soldiers laying around, but he kept saying with a smile, ‘”we will find it daddy”’. I went to the head doctor in the hospital, at first he refused to give us the blood, but when he saw Rejan, his heart got soften, he took us to a refrigerated room, and gave us two bags of blood. When he gave me the bags, I shed tears of joy, knowing my little Rejan will live another month. He was so full of life, always happy and smiling. He liked chocolate candies, and there was a shop in the village that sold it. One day he told me to buy him some chocolate candies, I took him to the shop, there were a group of Iranian Peshmerga forces stationed around the village back then, one of them was in the shop, when he saw Rejan, he started to hug him and kiss him, “I have a little son just like him in Iran”, Rejan reminded him of his son, he took him to the shop and told him to get anything he wanted, “I will pay for it”, but Rejan would not pick anything, he did not want him to pay, when he left the shop, then he picked the chocolate candies, and I paid for it. That is how he was; he always cared for others more than himself. A week after he died, when the same Peshmerga heard about his death, he came to our house, before he reached the front door, he went down on his knee, in the mud, shouting and crying, hitting his fist to the ground, I had to go and comfort him, “Come on now, you should be comforting me, I’m the one who have lost a son, but instead, I’m comforting you.” He was crying all day, telling me that he had seen many of his friend die in battle, but never cried like he did for Rejan, “Why did God take him away, he was so innocent, so full of life”, but God’s will is God’s will. Every Friday until the day he left back to Iran he visited his grave, I wish to know where he is now, he was a gentleman, Rejan reminded him of his son, that is why he was so taken by his death”

As I looked at Suzan, with her beautiful green eyes watching the television, I could not help but ask kak Ahmed the burning question, “Does Suzan also needs blood transfusion every month?”, “No, thanks God, she is healthy. God gave her to us healthy”. Just then, little Suzan, knowing we were talking about her, ran to his father, gave him a big hug, her little arms around his nick, I could see kak Ahmed’s eyes smiling with joy, “Do you know who this young man is who has come to our house?”, he asked her, pointing to me, “Yes, he is Haji Sharif’s son”, she whispered into his ear, they both laughed.

I could not bear it anymore, at that second, the tragedy and the joy of life combined were too much to bear, I picked up my camera and walked out of the room; into the cold, windy, dark night, and my heart was heavy.

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