Monday, March 11, 2013

Anthology Breakdown: To Each His Own Cinema

As part of the 60th anniversary of the Cannes Film Festival, 36 filmmakers were commissioned to each make a three-minute short film. Their direction: express your state of mind of the moment as inspired by the motion picture theater. The result as a whole is entitled To Each His Own Cinema and when broken down, it is an at-times fascinating examination of what inspired some of cinema’s finest talents. Like most all anthology films, some of the shorts below are less than stellar, while others are just plain pointless. But when one hits, damn, does it ever. (Big thanks to Steven from Surrender to the Void for being integral to making this post happen.)

Cinéma d'été (Open-Air Cinema)
Dir. by Raymond Depardon
A small group gathers on a rooftop to watch a film. The makeshift movie theater is humble and rests exactly where the film’s title suggests. The crowd seems to be entertained by the movie their watching, and then we leave them be. B-

One Fine Day
Dir. by Takeshi Kitano
An older Asian gentleman sits alone in a small movie theater and becomes increasingly more frustrated with his viewing experience. The film keeps stopping and at one point actually catches on fire. The man gets to see roughly 15 seconds of the film, before he exits the theater to continue on with his fine day. B+

Trois minutes (Three Minutes)
Dir. by Theo Angelopoulos
A woman enters an isolated movie house and, upon seeing a man sitting next to the screen, begins to confess her love for him. Given his stoic reaction, it doesn’t appear that their love is mutual. C

Dans le noir (In the Dark)
Dir. by Andrei Konchalovsky 
A lone woman in a large theater is very moved as she watches the final frames of Fellini’s 8 ½. As she’s leaving, she notices two young people having sex in the back of the theater. Instead of stopping them, she starts 8 ½ again, and enjoys the beginning of the film, as the lover’s end their tryst. B+

Diario di uno spettatore (Diary of a Moviegoer)
Dir. by Nanni Moretti
A kind, middle-aged man recounts his favorite movie going memories. He talks mostly about contemporary American films – how Legends of the Fall upset his mother, how Rocky Balboa made him cheer, and, most tellingly, how his son can’t wait to see the second Matrix film. In three minutes, Nanni Moretti perfectly encapsulates what it means to have your life influenced by film. A-

The Electric Princess House
Dir. by Hou Hsiao-hsien
This modest tale, shot in lush black and white and set presumably during WWII, shows a family in the minutes before they enter a movie theater. As we follow them into the theater, a stark transition makes a seemingly pointless short completely worthy. B

Dans l'obscurité (Darkness)
Dir. by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne
A young man crawls in the aisles of a movie theater, attempting to pickpocket an unsuspecting woman watching a film. Her reaction upon catching him surprises everyone, including us. A-

World Cinema
Dir. by Joel and Ethan Coen
Josh Brolin stands in a small movie theater lobby and debates whether to see Renoir’s The Rules of the Game or the Turkish drama, Climates. A theater employee (played by Grant Heslov, who just won an Oscar for producing Argo) helps him decide, which merits a funny result. If you imagine that Brolin is playing essentially his same character from No Country For Old Men (which he was shooting with the Coen’s when they made this short), it only adds to World Cinema’s fun. A

Dir. by David lynch
An off-screen group of young adults are shocked when they enter a movie theater and find that the person on screen is predicting their future. Or… something. Hey, it’s David Lynch, ya dig? A-

Dir. by Alejandro González Iñárritu
This is some kind of rare oddity that only film can bestow. I have a dream script. Something I completed several years ago but am well aware that it exceeds my skills. Meaning, I believe the script to be the makings of a rather fine film, but I won’t dare attempt to make it until I feel my personal filmmaking proficiency is up to par with the idea. My point is, in my script, there is a scene that is exactly like Iñárritu’s Anna. Damn near word for word, shot for shot. I wrote my script three years ago, but just watched Anna for the first time last night. Leave it to Iñárritu (one of my favorite filmmakers), to perfect what I thought was a damn good idea. A+

(Oh, and Anna doesn’t get a high grade just because it’s based on an idea close to my heart. This is a damn fine short in and of itself.)

En regardant le film (Movie Night)
Dir. by Zhang Yimou
An entire village gathers in a small square, in preparation for a movie that will soon play. Chairs are laid out, a white sheet doubling as a projection screen is hung, a projector is thread, and everyone waits in anticipation. And waits. And waits. B-

Le Dibbouk de Haifa (The Dybbuk of Haifa)
Dir. by Amos Gitai
A packed house in 1930’s Warsaw stares intently at a screen, entranced by the film before them. Gitai annoyingly cross dissolves everyone’s faces, making it impossible to keep our attention. We then jump cut 70 years later and realize that war is never escapable. C-

The Lady Bug
Dir. by Jane Campion
As a man cleans a deserted movie theater, he hears a bug in a vent, and attempts to squash it. The bug is amusingly played by an actress in a bug costume, and once the janitor turns the lights out, the Lady Bug deems it a good time to come out and dance. Good enough short, but what’s with the needlessly crude banter playing on the soundtrack? C+ 

Artaud Double Bill
Dir. by Atom Egoyan
Artaud Double Bill is by far the most complex consecutive three minutes of To Each His Own Cinema. Egoyan’s short cross cuts a young woman watching Godard’s Vivre Sa Vie, a lone girl watching a porn, a group of people watching the lone girl watching the porn, a girl watching The Passion of Joan of Arc, and another group watching another movie entirely. What’s it all about? Hell if I know, but it’ll get you thinking. B+

La Fonderie (The Foundry)
Dir. by Aki Kaurismäki
While on lunch break at a factory, many workers crowd into a small theater to catch a flick. No one says anything, instead letting one of the first films ever made do the talking. An amusing and self-reflexive piece. B

Recrudescence (Upsurge)
Dir. by Olivier Assayas
A young couple goes to the movies and while making out during the film, the woman’s purse is lifted by a crafty thief. You might be surprised by what happens when she finally calls her own phone. A-

47 ans après (47 Years Later)
Dir. by Youssef Chahine
A young filmmaker and his lead actress sit in a Cannes film festival screening, and voice concern about why their selected film isn’t getting any media attention. I’d hate to spoil where 47 Years Later goes from there, as it proves to be as inspiring a three minutes as you’re likely to find in this anthology. A+

It’s a Dream
Dir. by Tsai Ming-liang
A young man remembers a time when he watched movies with his family. They ate, they smoked, and they watched. The film asks us if this is a dream or reality. I couldn’t be sure myself. C

Dir. by Lars von Trier
Starring von Trier himself, this short plays out during the premiere of von Trier’s Manderlay. The director is seated next to a businessman who won’t shut the hell up about his own personal success. When he finally asks a perturbed von Trier what he does for a living, the director’s response is, well, perfectly von Trierian. A

Le Don (The Gift)
Dir. by Raoul Ruiz
A blind film buff tells his niece about a time he visited a village and watched Casablanca with the natives. The man went blind soon after his visit, but feels there is no correlation between his visit to the village, and his illness. Or something like that. Basically, it’s not that The Gift is poorly made, it’s that it is absolutely unnecessary. D+

Cinéma de boulevard (The Cinema Around the Corner)
Dir. by Claude Lelouch
A man tells us how his parents met, at a packed screening of Top Hat many years ago. His father wouldn’t leave his mother alone; begging her for a date, hoping to say all the right things at all the right times. From there, he tells us how film influenced all of their lives and, given the dedication Lelouch provides at the end, how he has only his parents to thank for it. A-

First Kiss
Dir. by Gus Van Sant
A kid threads a projector and starts a film, which is apparently nothing more than an unbroken shot of a beautiful beach. As the kid enters the isolated movie theater and makes his way close to the screen, he is presented with the literal magic of cinema. B

Cinéma érotique
Dir. by Roman Polanski
An older couple watching a steamy scene from Emmanuelle become annoyed by a man in the theater who appears to be getting off on the film. They alert the management, and the explanation for the man’s incessant groans is something only Polanski’s humor could come up with. A-

No Translation Needed
Dir. by Michael Cimino
This insane, overly caffeinated short tells the very fast story of a very excited movie theater owner who lets a very large Cuban band play in his theater after closing. The owner films the band, then cuts his footage into a film, which is not well received by the band’s aggressive lead singer. I don’t have the slightest clue what any of this meant, or what it contributed to the overall film. D+

At the Suicide of the Last Jew in the World in the Last Cinema in the World
Dir. by David Cronenberg
David Cronenberg stands in a men’s bathroom, slowly preparing to kill himself. We’re told via off-screen news commentators that Cronenberg is world’s last Jew and he is about to take his life inside the last movie theater on Earth. The commentators blabber on humorously, as Cronenberg finds it difficult to pull the trigger. B+

I Travelled 9000 km To Give It To You
Dir. by Wong Kar-wai
I love that, from frame one, you are so accurately aware that you’re watching a Wong Kar-wai film. The lush colors, the shifting shutter speeds, the overt sexuality – it’s all so wai. The film itself? Something about a young man watching a movie, eating some fruit, trying to get it on with his lady (or remember a time when he got it on with his lady). B-

Where Is My Romeo?
Dir. by Abbas Kiarostami
Where Is My Romeo? contains various shots of women watching Romeo and Juliet and being extremely moved by what they see. All ages, all shapes and sizes. That’s the power of the moving picture. B-

The Last Dating Show
Dir. by Bille August
Two people see a Danish film for their first date, but because the woman doesn’t speak the language, the man has to verbally dictate the dialogue to her. This frustrates three loud mouths sitting in front of them, and what develops is a few minutes of genuine suspense. I seriously had no idea where this one was going. Thankful it landed where it did. A

Irtebak (Awkward)
Dir. by Elia Suleiman
A filmmaker watches as several people exit a theater playing his movie. He goes to use the bathroom and examines the toilet closely, then goes back to the auditorium to partake in a Q&A. If anything, this short is exactly what its title promises. C-

Rencontre unique (Sole Meeting)
Dir. by Manoel de Oliveira
Sole Meeting is a silent black and white film in which two businessmen are greeted by The Pope at a party. Like a few other shorts in To Each His Own Cinema, I haven’t a clue what this short adds to anything. D

A 8 944 km de Cannes (5,557 Miles From Cannes)
Dir. by Walter Salles
Two Brazilian musicians sing a song in which one recounts the time he visited Cannes. The track is lyrically amusing, and the two actors’ obvious enjoyment of what they’re doing makes this a rather pleasing short. Plus, the beginning of their exchange is hilarious. B

War in Peace
Dir. by Wim Wenders
Residents of a Congo village gather under a small hut and watch Black Hawk Down. Some are indifferent, others are dismayed, for some, we get the sense that what they’re watching hits far too close to home, for better and certainly for worse. The title card at the end of the film only adds to the overall weight. B+

Zhanxiou Village
Dir. by Chen Kaige
A handful of youngsters skillfully rig up a projector so they can enjoy a Chaplin film. A man approaches and runs the kids off, but one child remains, fixated on the now blank screen, begging the man to turn the movie back on. Pretty much the same exact reaction I had when I watched my first Chaplin; I simply didn’t want it to end. A

Happy Ending
Dir. by Ken Loach
A father and son hurriedly enter a movie theater and try to decide what flick to see. They can’t seem to choose, which infuriates an older man standing behind them in line, resulting in an unexpected yet oddly perfect conclusion. A-

Previous installments of Anthology Breakdown include:


  1. Great review. The Cimino segment was my least favorite as was Jane Campion. It's hard to pick a favorite as I loved a lot of the shorts I saw. I hope they do something like this in the future.

    1. Thanks man. Yeah, Cimino and Campion's shorts did nothing for me, which is kind of surprising as I'm really a fan of their work.

      Thanks again for making it possible for me to see this film, I really did enjoy it.

  2. Totally forgot about this. Quality issues aside, I definitely need to see it soon. Great job man.

    1. Thanks dude. I agree, although some of the shorts are unnecessary, the film as a whole is essential.

  3. Oh man, you've no idea how much I want to see some of these a second time, I absolutely loved them all the first time. One of the best anthologies of anything I've ever seen.

    1. Yeah, it was really a thrill to watch this. The best ones were just perfect.

  4. This looks awesome! Some great directors there - Cronenberg's in particular looks interesting. Are you a fan of Ken Loach generally?

    1. It is definitely an interesting watch. Cronenberg's is really amusing.

      Of the Loach films I've seen (Wind that Shakes the Barley, Kes, Sweet Sixteen, a few more...) I have enjoyed them. But I haven't seen many of his films. His short here was really good.

  5. I saw Occupations because I wanted to see what do you mean "perfectly von Trierian". Shit, it was amazing. I couldn't find To Each His Own Cinema but this short film was fantastic. Maybe I'll some of these.

    1. The entire anthology is a bit hard to track down, but some of the single shorts are on YouTube. Glad you found Occupations. That shit is hilarious. My favorite here is Anna.

  6. "Trois minutes (Three Minutes)
    Dir. by Theo Angelopoulos

    A woman enters an isolated movie house and, upon seeing a man sitting next to the screen, begins to confess her love for him. Given his stoic reaction, it doesn’t appear that their love is mutual. C"

    Well, actually that "man sitting next to the screen" is Marcello Mastroianni(footage from "L'Apiculteur" by Theo Angelopoulos); and that woman is saying the lines from the movie "La Notte" by Michelangelo Antonioni, which is a story of the life of an unfaithful married couple and their steadily deteriorating relationship, where she (Jeanne Moreau) played Marcello Mastroianni's wife.

    This segment clearly mentioned "À la mémoire de M.M." ("in memory of M.M.) in the beginning.

    1. That's makes me appreciate the segment MUCH more. Really appreciate the insight. Thanks!