Garpastum is a Latin word meaning a ball game, and contests were played as far back as ancient China and Sparta. Set in 1914 in St. Petersburg, the capital of the collapsing Russian Empire, World War I has already begun. The handsome brothers Andrey and Nikolai are passionate about the amateur matches they play on the streets of St. Petersburg. With their friends Shoust and Fatso, they hatch a scheme to buy a playing field. In order to finance it, they start playing for money with workmen, seminarians and anyone else they encounter. Andrey engages in an affair with a wealthy actress from Belgrade, Nikolai, an aspiring doctor, becomes infatuated with her sister Vita. Soon all of their lives and their world will be shattered and ruined by the Revolution of 1917. But there is still some time left for them to cherish their dreams and indulge in their passion for soccer. The film, which tells about tragic events, has a light breath and relaxed cinematic language and I liked it although most of my companions didn’t. Beautiful cinematography and stylish anti-drama nonetheless.
***** A WORKINGMAN'S DEATH (MICHAEL GLAWOGGER - 2005 – Germany/Austria)
This stunning five-part documentary is about heavy labour, about the most gruelling physical labour imaginable as it is carried out in different places and under different social and economic conditions. Men who work life-threatening jobs—and as the settings jump from Java to China, Nigeria to the Ukraine, so does the subtle music by John Zorn. Steaming sulphur mines, the bloodbaths of a brutal slaughterhouse… Glawogger's spellbounding visuals leave you breathless. The unique soundtrack by John Zorn is an added bonus. A monumental film!
** A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE (DAVID CRONENBERG - 2005 – Canada)
A surprisingly conventional film from the normally more adventurous David Cronenberg about a prototypically normal Middle American family put to the test by crime and a disruption of its very identity. In the beginning, Cronenberg tries too hard to portray a perfect family, including the most ridiculous bed scene I have seen in ages. Ridiculous! The tale of a top mob gangster who turns into a local diner employee isn’t very convincing too. Although most of the action scenes are fun to watch, I couldn't stop thinking : "Is this all there is Mr. Cronenberg?"
**½ NEWS FROM AFAR (RICARDO BENET - 2005 – Mexico) Mexican director Ricardo Benet's first feature film, is a a gloomy picture about a teenager who lives with his troubled mother, resentful stepfather, and reverential younger brother on a homestead in a deserted, waterless area that doesn't even has a name – the settlement is simply known as No. 17. The first half of the film is about their futile attempts to make a go of it. In the second part, Martin moves to the capital for work, living in a flophouse and getting involved with a psychologically disturbed woman. He returns to his family, only to find that the neighbours have all moved away, his mother is catatonic, and his stepdad is inflexible about her fate. Tragedy ensues when Martin ultimately asserts himself. An interesting debut.