Magic and Reality

Abhijit Ghosh-Dastidar

Arturo Ripstein
Solutions to mysteries are revealed slowly and effectively in Arturo Ripstein’s ‘‘Bleak Street’’ (Mexico/Spain, 2015, Spanish, Black and White, and Colour, 100 mins). As a woman wakes up, a short man pushes the woman and leaves. Two midgets wearing masks, walk the streets recovering debts. An old couple are woken up. The mother, Divine Providence, blesses her midget sons. She drinks a lot. A whore, Adela (Patricia Reyes) pays debt money to Margarita (Sylvia Pasquel). Dora (Nora Velazquez) fights with her midget husband. Adela and Dora drug their customers and rob. Holy sweat of labour is fulfilled. Instead of being circus performers, the midgets with masks : AK (Alejandro Suarez) and Little Death (Ernando Gonzalez), are boxers and wrestlers. They are bullied by other fighters. Adela and Dura make love to the midgets, and pour sedatives in their eyes. Next morning the midgets are found dead. The mother of the midgets cries, and bangs her head on a looking glass. Police investigate, and find no Mafia connection nor associates. The mother gives a rosary and dresses of gold thread to accompany the midgets to heaven. The pharmacy girl gives evidence to the police. The whores panic. Police search the area and living rooms. Adela and Dora arrested for the death of the Lilliputian gladiators. While whores walk ‘Bleak Street’, jail provides food, roof and blankets to the inmates. Ripstein’s narrative dynamically shifts attention between the protagonists. The compositions of poverty, crime and the dark streets make ‘‘Bleak Streets’’ full of sympathy and visual panache. Alejandro Cantu’s camera does not allow sensationalist thrills.

‘‘Everything will be fine’’ (Germany/Canada / France / Sweden / Norway, 2015, English, Colour, 118 mins) by Wim Wenders, has lush covered visuals and tangential dialogue. A recluse writer, Tomas (James Franco) is driving aimlessly along a snow covered landscape. Speaking to his friend Sarah (Rachel Mac Adams) on the phone, Tomas hits the sledge of a young boy, Christopher, on the snow laden road. Tomas had pulled breaks, and the boy is saved. He takes the child to the mother’s (Charlotte Gainsbourg) residence. The mother Kate calls police. Presently things are edgy, and there are possibilities of everything going to be different. Tomas is standard, and sinks into a sofa in Sarah’s house. He wishes to keep on writing, and shifts to a motel. Under stress and alcohol, he is admitted to a hospital. He visits his father, Francis. After some years, Christopher (Jack Futton) is in church with his mother. Tomas has a new girl friend, Nicky, who has a daughter. When they visit a fair ground, one girl falls under steel wheels. Tomas meets Sarah, on the steps of a concert, but Sarah, already married, remains hostile. Christopher, now grown up, contacts Tomas, and finds Tomas’s success as a writer unfair, in comparison to his mother’s failure as an artist and sketcher. The mother has sold off the house. There is reconciliation between Christopher and Tomas. The boy on cycle goes off to school. Fate and accidents affect events fatally, but Wenders keeps his characters one-dimensional. The passions and psychological conflicts lead to pity, and the present lacks dramatic force. Bjorn Olaf Jahannessen’s screenplay has plot twists, but Wenders’ images do not fully explore subjective experiences. Benoit Debie’s camera captures milieu and environment, with mobility.

Peter Greenaway’s ‘‘Eisenstein in Guanajuato’’ (Mexico / Netherlands, 2015, English / Spanish, Colour, 105 mins) is an outrageous, unconventional and profane biopic on Russia’s greatest silent filmmaker, Sergei Eisenstein. Rejected by Hollywood and under pressure to return to Stalin’s Soviet Union, Eisenstein (Elmerback) arrives in the city of Guanajuato in Mexico in 1931, hoping to film ‘‘Qui Viva Mexico’’. Similar to the ten days of the Russian Revolution which shook the world, in Eisenstein films ‘‘strike’’, ‘‘Battleship Potemkin’’ and ‘‘October’’, Eisenstein’s ten days in Mexico shook Eisenstein. The film maker meets the beauty Freida Pinto. ‘‘October’’ is screened with a live orchestra, in an empty hall. Eisenstein is guarded by three gunmen. The Mexican Revolution occurred five years before the Russian Revolution of 1917. Eisenstein is impressed by Mexican Catholicism, blood sacrifices, and huge churches. The film depicts Eisenstein’s symbolic death and subsequent resurrection, via an act of gay sex, with his sturdy, Mexican guide, Palomino Canedo (Luis Alberti). Eisenstein photos the city landscapes with a moving camera. The film alternates between colour and black and white. Original and vintage footage are blended. Frames divided in split panels with films of Cocteau, Abel Gance, Chaplin and Eisenstein’s personality. Eisenstein wears a single white suit with red suspenders. While in a shower, he speaks to his wife in Moscow. Emigre Russians celebrate anniversary of Russian Revolution. Film rushes are sent to a studio in California. Eisenstein has to leave Mexico, as his vias has expired. Although the focus is on intimate Eisenstein, Greenaway never shows the director at work.

Vol. 49, No.22, Dec 4 - 10, 2016