Corazza and his boys: psychodrama and massage at Conde Duque Cultural Center

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A pleasant and revealing but at the same time exhausting three-hour experience: to attend a class by reputed and controversial theatre director Juan Carlos Corazza. The bare-foot male and female students receive us emitting nasal and guttural sounds with the sight lost in the infinite, like sect members meditating in a never-ending introspection. Once the mystical music is over, 20 youngsters dreaming to become theater and movie stars come back to life and Corazza explains to the audience the meaning of this open exhibition of his school’s 4th year student’s training session.

They start performing Lorca’s Bodas de sangre (Blood Wedding) in pairs. He interrupts them, correcting here and there, questions them, massages their shoulders, puts a hand on I-don’t-know-which chakra, places someone from outside of the scene in front of a promising actress to make her feel something, so that she can project her own excitement into the scene and repeat it ad nauseam. Further on, with Chekhov’s Seagull, he will confront and embrace an actor for half a minute to extract tears from his touched face.

Corazza applies Stanislavsky’s method to his own style and personality, most times flooding the stage with his huge and eager-to-be-worshipped ego, but undoubtedly getting unprecedented performances from the student actors and actresses. He makes them explore the dramatic texts’ hermeneutical nuances using their own intern conflicts, as a form of reverse psychodrama. As an expected Argentinian theater man, Adler and Gestalt practical psychology mixed with Freudian psychoanalytical delirious ideas about the trauma theory enters his professorial speech, and, the same way homeopathic medicaments cure without having been empirically proven or Scientology blends subjective science and SF to save people’s souls in the Earth, he actually improves his students’ performing quality.

From the outside, someone could argue that he plays favorites, disregarding the average and unattractive ones and promoting nasty competition, as in a theater Spanish version of Fame, but, in the end, that’s the way the world works, isn’t it?

Child’s pose: Romanian time to fly the nest

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Other films have deepened in a parent’s feelings dealing with the death of a son –my favourites are Almodovar’s All about my mother and Nani Moretti’s The son’s room– but this Romanian movie, Child’s pose, by director Calin Peter Netzer and awarded this year with a Golden Bear at Berlin International Film Festival, includes many more things: a depiction of the generalized corruption as a pay-it-forward chain in Romanian society; the gap between the powerful and the lower classes, although they share many more values than they might think; the everlasting but maladjusted bonds between an aging mother and an adult son.

Cornelia lives obsessed with her son, disrupting his personal life and trying to control all aspects of his existence, including his new emotional partner, until she receives a call communicating a car accident in which Barbu is involved. The fragile balance of an apparent bourgeois normality dissipates and, in the fight for her son’s future, all dysfunctional elements of an over-controlling personality end up provoking the unavoidable confrontation with reality.

Almost two hours of a film that takes you inside the characters’ world and plays with your judgment of their ambivalent selves when showing their many moral edges, peevish and praiseworthy at the same time.

Koreeda, the Truman Capote of Japanese cinema

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Today one of the most renowned Japanese filmmakers abroad, Hirokazu Koreeda, already in the early 90’s, experimented his later narrative language in documentaries like 彼のいない八月が (An August without him) or 日本人になりたかった  (I wanted to be Japanese). The first one, from 1994, is a very personal document about the last months in the life of a Japanese man infected with AIDS and terminal ill. When openly declaring his illness and confessing that he had contracted it through homosexual sex, Yutaka Hirata broke with 2 taboos firmly established in Japan at the time (and probably still going on): first, the fact that there are Japanese homosexual men, something denied by a part of Japanese society in spite of evidence in the tradition of the country (see Gohatto) but supported by the discrimination suffered by gay people in a normative and homogeneous society, which keeps them very deep in the closet; the other one was AIDS, never thought by many to be able to reach Japan’s insular condition. Koreeda, even in his director’s role, erases the distance between himself and his study object, getting closer and more and more involved with Hirata as a person.

The other documentary, filmed in 1992, not so sad but with a more clear political line, deals with the rights of Japanese-Koreans -born in Japan but without Japanese passport or nationality- and the social rejection that they face if they don’t integrate completely, abandoning their Korean identity. The film’s main thread is the story of a Korean man, who in the times of the Japanese occupation of the Korean peninsula, is sent to Japan to fight along with the Japanese in the Philippines, but after the war and fearing discrimination, creates a Japanese identity for himself and manages to get married and have children without his family ever knowing about his origins for 50 years until he is arrested in 1985 for forging official documents and in suspicion of being a spy from North Korea. Koreeda, making a filmic narrative out of a journalist and legal case, in the line of Truman Capote’s Cold Blood, analyzes Park’s (that was his Korean name) case, interviewing his lawyer and even visiting his hometown in Korea. He also shows the controversial Korean schools in Japan, blaming the police and the media for the animosity that the Korean-Japanese issue generates in the Japanese public opinion.

Are you also a Communist old relic?

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Somebody said that one’s homeland is where one spends her childhood. In the case of Emilia, Sunt o Babă Comunistă’s main character, it’s her youth, when thanks to Ceaușescu‘s regime, she got a permanent job in a factory and even received an apartment for free. The film, from 2013 and opening the Romanian cinema festival at Cinema Doré in Madrid, depicts life in a provincial town far from Bucharest around 2010, when the ex-dictator’s body is being exhumed to check his DNA. Many years have passed after his fall and execution in 1989, but his name and controversial legacy are still on everyone’s lips, especially for the economic crisis, the exhumation news and a movie that is being filmed in town depicting a frustrated visit of the “First Romanian communist comrade” to the factory. Director Stere Gulea, famous in his country for his movie Morometii, a 1988’s adaptation from a popular novel from between Wars and being shown today in the cinema series, successfully contrasts the conflicting feelings and ideas of Ceaușescu’s supporters with their younger (and not so, like the teacher and seamstress) detractors’. Even Emilia, who still proudly keeps her Communist Party membership card hidden behind a religious image, recalls the nonsensical cult to the personality that the ex-dictator cultivated; images in black and white take us to her past, which is been observed by old Emilia as a black-and-white spectator, same as in another memorable film dealing with the end of the Soviet time in the Balkans, Ulysses’ Gaze, by Theo Angelopoulos. Ceaușescu’s anecdote is just another but related one of the stories narrated in the film, actually showing the daughter’s visit from Canada with her boyfriend, an unavoidable  childish and politically correct North American young man. Alice, played by Ana Ularu, an attractive actress with exotic facial features, is the one in the couple down to earth and strong enough as to face realistically their economic problems. And again, modern-time values are questioned when the crisis in the capitalist West requires help from the remainders of Communism for the former to survive.

P.S.: And surprising the resemblance of the Romanian “baba” actress with a Spaniard, the also actress Concha Cuetos.

Charlton Heston in Cisjordania: 5 broken cameras in the Planet of the Arabs

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To watch Chuck Norris in an 80’s B-series movie spitting food at and insulting derogatively the whole Arab and Muslim world produces a mixture of astonishment and embarrassment. It’s one of the 1000 films that director Jaqueline Reem Salloum, American of Palestinian and Syrian descent and resident in New York, has edited to create a short film showing the generalized negative image depicted by Hollywood when it deals with the Arabs. Out of those 1000 films, 12 of them projected positive images, 53 neutral, and the rest, an unquestionable majority, negative images associated with violence and inhumanity. Supported by a metal rock soundtrack whose noise gets confounded with the unavoidable terrorists’ bullets, it is a healthy and sarcastic critical approach to a Western consolidated mirage, understood this concept as “negative and distorted opinions of the Other valuing their culture as inferior”.

The former was the introduction (in the Palestinian film festival in Madrid) to a Palestinian-Israeli documentary about the occupation in a small village, Bil’in, in Cisjordania or West Bank, which shows the human side of a community, removed of their farming lands little by little by means of a wire fence, and the complexity of Israeli politics, where many factions coexist, some of them against the illegal –even by Israeli law standards- occupation of lands by Orthodox Jewish settlers. Emad shows 5 broken cameras, each of which represents a period in his life, distributed between family and the filmed denouncement of the soldiers’ harassment to the activists claiming back their lands. Although the community eventually manages to win the legal fight in court and the fence is finally dismantled, the future of those traditional communities in a growing Israeli population avid for land doesn’t predict a peaceful future. Maybe what is require the sooner the better is an agreed land “divorce”, as Israeli columnist and writer Ari Sahvit puts it, although he doesn’t hide the difficulties of the decision: “If Israel does not retreat from the West Bank, it will be politically and morally doomed, but if it does retreat, it might face an Iranian-backed and Islamic Brotherhood-inspired West Bank regime whose missiles could endanger Israel’s security.”

A cannibal in Granada

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A routine and dull life can hide astonishing secrets, as tailor Carlos’, grave and responsible at work, silence and frugal at home, but with his refrigerator full of meat, human meat. The film’s slow cadence and the long sequence shots in contrast with the high tension of the story suit the character’s double life and personality, as in a Takeshi Kitano’s movie; the explanations for his behavior are simple as a child’s: “I wanted them and killed them. That’s what I do: I kill them and eat them”. The director doesn’t want to go deeper and verbalize more of Carlos’ tasty interest in the female flesh, although it’s clear how his cannibalism serves as a substitute for sex, considering the sensual way he spreads spices over the steaks with his fingers, how he smells the dead bodies in the “sacrificial altar” or his face of contained satisfaction when chewing the just-made tenderloin. References to his sexual impotence are suggested all over the film, for his null interactions with the Hitchcokian and receptive twin Rumanian young women, same as the parallel with the Catholic imagery of crucified Christ and the sacrament of Communion, which no doubt he follows too literally.

“Bajo 30”: youth is not bliss

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The other day, a presentation of a short-story and fragment-of-novel anthology written by authors under 30 took place at the bookstore-winery Tipos infames, in Madrid. Nowadays, most of the books collecting stories by presumably a generational group of writers, is more a marketing idea than a real entity with common literary interests, influences, themes, style and final product. And, in the end, as Guillermo Aguirre, one of the YOUNG writers said, literature is something written by a guy in underpants at home to be read by another guy in underpants at home (let’s change the male-oriented “guy” for the more politically correct “person”), and he is not interested in more; neither am I, but here I am, surrounded but twenty-many and thirty-few happy literary wannabies talking about political and cultural power and forgetting to address their own texts, as if that question were something banal. In the anthology, apart from a few jewels, like poetic and experimental Juan Soto Ivars’ text, or Cristina Morales’s perfect example of autofiction in the line of Vila-Matas, with an ironic criticism of extreme and nonsensical feminisms, many of the rest in the pack look more like an useless and uninteresting exercise of style promoted by a writing school’s teacher, funny stories by cool guys imitating the beat generation or even children literature; not the real content and stylistic literary pieces that you expect to find in really promising authors. Two other passable ones are “Romperse”, by Aixa de la Cruz, the story of a vigorexic young man vomiting blood after extensive bulimic episodes, and the unpretentious and well structured “Delfines” by Aloma Rodríguez, in which the narrator recalls her grandfather’s funeral intercalating her memories from the past with him.

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