CHAVELA (USA/Mexico/Spain 2017) ***

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Chavela Poster
Trailer

Through its lyrical structure, Chavela will take viewers on an evocative, thought-provoking journey through the iconoclastic life of game-changing artist Chavela Vargas. Centered around … See full summary »

Directors:

Catherine Gund (co-director), Daresha Kyi (co-director)

The film opens with the film’s subject Chavela Vargas saying on camera to her interviewer that it is not the past that counts but what goes on from then.  That was before the time of her death in 2012, so the doc has to take audiences back to where CHAVELA came from.      There is also the point that not many know who she is, so back to the past.

The question then is what is so special about this Mexican artist/singer and why is it necessary to dedicate an entire documentary to her?  This doc provides the possible answers, but whatever they are,  it should be noted that Chavela Vargas was the Mexican icon who scandalized and captivated the world around her.

  A few reasons:  Chavela was notorious and that demands some respect.  She had an affair with and broke the heart of artist, the then older Frida Kahlo.  She attended Elizabeth Taylor’s Acapulco wedding, and woke up in bed with the movie star Ava Gardner.  These are shown with just photographs of Liz Taylor and Gardner separately and voiceover, as no footage is assumed to be available.   She wielded a gun and indulged in tequila with legendary enthusiasm.  She has been known to collapse after drinking, and this happened often so that she had quite the reputation.  Her singing made Spanish director Pedro Almodovar – and millions of others – cry.  Her death in 2012 saw mourning akin to a Mexican state funeral.  She was open gay, though no one ever brought it up directly.  She became noticed as a singer when she refused to wear the traditional Mexican dresses but wore trousers and shirts (male attire) instead.  She adopted the performance persona of the “charro” (a singing-cowboy genre plied by her legendary and tragic friend and collaborator Jose Alfredo Jimenez). 

As Chavela died in 2012, the doc has to rely on already taken footage.  Fortunately co-director Catherine Gund was the interviewer, availing herself of a rare opportunity during a time she spent living south of Mexico City.  “My girlfriends played me Chavela’s songs and told me tales of her womanizing, her irresistible allure, her deep voice, her audacity. I had to meet her” She says.

The film is divided into two halves.  The second shows her comeback, mainly in Spain and finally back to Mexico.  This is the part where Spanish director Pedro Almodovar appears to aid her in her career.  He uses her music in his films like KIKA and THE FLOWER OF MY SECRET.

The film’s best parts are understandably her performances, where the audience can see for themselves the reason for her popularity.  She has the talent to move audiences to tears with her performances.  The last part of the film see her in a wheelchair before her death in 2012.

Catherine Gund and Daresha Kyi’s documentary shows Chavela the way she is, and her lifestyle – warts and all.  At least their doc would make this artist (who every lesbian in Mexico respects, according to the film) more recognized in the world.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XKyj5Tzrumo

 

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Film Review: JULIETA (Spain 2016) ***** Top 10

julieta_movie_poster

Directed by Pedro Almodovar

Writers: Pedro Almodóvar (guión), Alice Munro (basado en “Destino”, “Pronto” y “Silencio” de)

Stars: Emma Suárez, Adriana Ugarte, Daniel Grao

Review by Gilbert Seah

One of pouts of a good adaptation is that the adaptation contains the main story but has the author’s distinct imprint on it. From the very first 10 minutes of JULIETA, Almodovar’s adaptation of the book, written into a script by himself, the audience sees lots of Almodovar- and the Almodovar everyone likes.

The first scene is the modern apartment of the protagonist. She is dressed in bright red with matching bright red nail polish. She discards an envelope coloured bright blue and books of bright colours like yellow are seen on her book shelf. The next scene, a key one when she chance meets a friend of her daughter’s on the street, has the two quickly c friend is bing hurried along by three obviously queer queenie male friends. From the first two scenes, one can tell this is clearly an Almodovar with more surprised and delights on the way. One scene following is comical enough to feature a bright yellow garbage truck in the background.

JULIETE is one of Almodovar’s most talky films. Most of his later films have a 10- minute of so ‘talky’ segment in which some explanation to a plot is given. But JULIETA is talky from start to end. But this is not a bad or boring thing, as the script is filled with colourful dialogue, written by the master himself and full of his private anecdotes.

The film contains many shots of his past films. One for example has a group of young teens playing basketball. The scene has nothing to do with the movie, it is just thee when Juileta walks around the neighbourhood of her apartment, but it is reminiscent of the voyeuristic view of the bathing boys in the river in LA MALA EDUCATION, Almodovar’s best film. The same scene is visited later with teen girls playing the game.

JULIETA is about the mystery of life. Julieta’s daughter abandons her. It takes Julieat hers before she discovers the reason. It is here i the flashbacks where Almodovar’s film turns from stylized melodrama (no complaint) here to mystery, reminiscent of Hitchcock , complete with a score that sounds like Edward Hermann’s. In one scene, Lorenzo, Julieta’s lover even makes a reference to mystery writer Patricia Highsmith.

JULIETE contains many brilliantly executed scenes. One is the confrontation in which Julieta is told of her daughter’s intentions. “She has chosen her path, and you are not on it,” she is told. But the best scene occurs in the film’s subtle last minute, where a clever line told by Renato to Julieta ends the film.

Almodovar has progressed from comic to a serious director. His early comedies WHAT HAVE I DONE TO DESERVE THIS?, WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN or KIKA have none of the dead seriousness of JULIETA. JULIETA is Amodovar at his most mature and also arguably at his best.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YH5_4osOZK8

 

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Happy Birthday: Pedro Almodóvar

pedroalmodovar.jpgPedro Almodóvar

Born: September 25, 1949 in Calzada de Calatrava, Ciudad Real, Castilla-La Mancha, Spain

[2016 interview] Reality always filters through into my films, even when I try to reject it. It finds a crack to seep in through. The climate of the last four years in Spain has been of enormous unhappiness and even though I haven’t personally suffered from the harshness of the economic situation, I’m surrounded by people who have. I don’t think Julieta (2016) is a metaphor for Spain today but it’s no accident that my 80s films were much happier.

VOLVER
2006
dir. Pedro Almodovar
Stars:
Penelope Cruz
PEDRO ALMODOVAR
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TIFF 2016 Movie Reviews: JULIETA (Spain 2016) *** 1/2 Directed by Pedro Almodovar

Movie Reviews of films that will be playing at TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) in 2016. Go to TIFF 2016 Movie Reviews and read reviews of films showing at the festival.

julieta.jpg JULIETA (Spain 2015) *** 1/2
Directed by Pedro Almodovar

Stars: Adriana Ugarte, Rossy de Palma, Emma Suárez

Review by Gilbert Seah

A film being looked forward to, as it is based on Canadian author and Nobel Prize Winner Alice Munro’s short stores from her book “Runaway”.

Written and directed by Pedro Almodovar, his 20th film marks a departure from his signature melodrama to more high drama. Three short stores are combined into a strong narrative, told largely in flashback with a voiceover by the lead character, obviously called Julieta (Emma Suárez and Adriana Ugarte as older and younger versions of the film’s protagonist)

Film cineastes will be delighted to connect with film references from anything from the recent WINTER’S BONE seen in a poster to STRANGERS ON A TRAIN with a nod to author Patrician Highgate.

The film contains more dialogue than the standard Almodovar movie, and it is for this reason the director opted not to do the initial English languanger version with Meryl Streep in the title role. Aldmodovar’s use of bright colours is still felt throughout tho colourful story of life and regrets.

Trailer: https://www.youtube. com/watch?v=NHkGsbz8rLY