Stockholm.

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How to spot a jerk:

  1. Look for the guy with beady eyes, searching for girls who blink nervously, smack their lips, or cross their arms. He looks a bit like an old Nokia 3310 ‘Snake’ addict playing a game – except he has no mobile phone in his hand.
  2. The guy has some kind of a crazy hobby. He either goes to no-music silent parties, knits Premiere League clubs official scarves, or collects sand from every beach he’s been to. And he explains it by saying, that he’s ‘kind of a geek’.
  3. He might be very handsome, but is generally on the average. But he’s also so charismatic that everybody around him seems convinced that floppy arms are better while making love or sausage-shaped toes indeed help while running long distances.
  4. He overuses adjectives and underuses pronouns. He will call you ‘gorgeous’, ‘seductive’, ‘sexy’ or ‘charming’, but he will never say ‘we’ or even ‘I’ in relation to ‘you’.
  5. He’s like a vampire – very real, hot-blooded at night, but in the morning he dissapears, leaving a body mark on the bedsheets or an abandoned leather jacket with red lining.

And there is always this fast-flowing boy-girl conversation that leaves the latter with a sweet taste of connection and long-lasting bond. For the viewers, it feels like watching a tennis match, with the balls being passed right about the net, with great serves, outstanding smatches and breathtaking volleys. If you enjoy love sports, you should see Stockholm (2013) by Rodrigo Sorogoyen.

He (Javier Pereira) is, essentially, a jerk. She (Aura Garrido) has big sad eyes of a cervine and fragile-looking porcelain skin. They meet at a party, where he confesses love at first sight. She discourages him, but he doesn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. We watch a sparkling conversation filled with big words and high notes, and we end up believing that these two have managed to find each other in this sea full of human algae and dirty lies. Their conversation does seem theatrical, though, and a little scripted, as if they have both abandoned their ambiguities and decided to fully accept the roles assigned. The first part of the movie is essentially filled with words, full of charm and wit.

But, then, morning comes and everything changes. She is still porcelain-skinned, but also appears to have some mysterious mental problem we know no details of. He’s distant, cold, unwelcoming. They continue their game, but this time there are no rules to follow and no scripts to rely on. He wants to kick her out of the apartment, she refuses to go, they fight and engage in a brutal control-seeking clash where everyone wants to have the last word.

And, then, everything goes quiet. The culminant scene is very ascetic, free of colourful dialogue and wordy energy flow. Its minimalistic power leaves you speechless, too. It’s a bit as if the director played tricks on you: an initially light love story turns into a deep meditation about the dangers of physical attraction.

So what do I know? Maybe it’s not that easy to spot a jerk, after all. Or maybe, it doesn’t matter. There will always be people who fall for this illusion of uniqueness and these tricks people play, whether we are talking about real life, or simply just a movie.


You’ll enjoy this movie if:

a) you believe in soulmates, but can accept that things aren’t always what they seem at first glance.

b) you enjoy looking at objectively attractive people. I’m sorry, but both Aura and Javier are just a real pleasure for the eye.

c) you don’t mind movies that piss you off, whether we are talking about the title tricks or about the sudden twists in the plot.


 

stockholmTitle: Stockholm

Year: 2012

Directed by: Rodrigo Sorogoyen

Written by: Rodrigo Sorogoyen, Isabel Peña

Produced by:    Alberto Del Campo, Eduardo Villanueva, Borja Soler, Rodrigo Sorogoyen, Omar A. Razzak

Trailer:

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Loves of a Blonde.

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According to INSEE, there are approximately 2,5 million people living in Paris, 51% of whom are female. In the 25-29 age group, 93,000 women considered themselves single, as compared to 98,000 unattached men of a similar age. If you are female, and happen to be marriage-minded, Paris might be the place for you. That’s right, ladies: in Paris, it is officially safe to say that there are more fish in the sea.

But, obviously, not every fish is to our liking, and not every fish likes to be caught, which makes the husband hunt more tricky. In general, France is very proud of its public assistance and social services. I wonder if world leaders would ever consider helping their citizens to find their soul mate. Is that too crazy? If I can get a free state-sponsored gynecological examination, why can’t I get sent a few phone numbers of men who the state thinks would be perfect for me? What would be the result if Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris, watched Milos Forman’s movie, Loves of a Blonde?

Let me explain. In Loves of a Blonde (1965), one of the most well-known Czechoslovak “New Wave” movies, a factory manager decides that his employees, overwhelmingly women, need to be helped in search for love. So, he organizes a party, invites all his female employees, and brings a group of men to them. He gives everyone alcohol, hires a band and then strolls among the crowd, hoping for the best. The men aren’t at all the best pick of the crop – balding and sweaty, borderline alcoholic, grinning while quickly hiding their wedding rings in their pockets. But most girls don’t seem to see it – they lighten up when someone asks them to dance and get hysterical if they are ignored.

The girls are easy to please, gullible and, honestly, quite stupid. Andula (Hana Brejchová), the titular blonde, is incredibly naive. When she meets Milda (Vladimír Pucholt), a young pianist from Prague, she falls for him and starts imagining their future together. Her actions then are all about Milda, Milda oriented and driven. Andula then travels to Prague to reunite with her love. When she arrives, she is an unexpected guest who puts everyone in an uncomfortable position. The whole situation culminates and resolves itself an absurd conversation between Milda and his parents, held in the middle of the night as they all try to sleep on a double bed.

The film starts with a conversation between Andula and her friend; they talk about boys and admire our female protagonist’s ring, a gift from one of the admirers. Coming around full circle, the last scene is also a conversation, and we see Andula lying to her friend about the visit in Prague: everything went wonderful, Milda’s parents were lovely and she really enjoyed herself.

We, the audience, know the truth, even if we wish we didn’t. Ultimately, we realize that those two conversations are story frames and they put the whole plot in overarching brackets, showing us that everything was an illusion twisted by the characters feelings. Andula is not an exceptionally insecure character, she is real. And in our search for love we are all like Andula at times. This makes Loves of a Blonde a complete cinematic package: a bittersweet, tender and sarcastic mockumentary, reflecting the viewers’ feelings like a mirror. Clearly with such high emotional stakes, I think it conclusively shows that love lives are a bit too complicated for social services to take care of. Which is a deep shame, as I am blonde too.


You’ll enjoy this movie if:

a) you have a keen eye for the classics.

b) you like absurdity and irony in cinema…and you’re also able to spot them.

c) you find people who believe in the concept of a „one true love” both cute and naive. And while you might mock them, you’re also kind of jealous.


 

936full-the-loves-of-a-blonde-posterTitle: Loves of a Blonde aka A Blonde in Love (Lásky jedné plavovlásky)

Year: 1965

Directed by: Miloš Forman

Written by: Miloš Forman, Jaroslav Papoušek

Produced by: Doro Vlado Hreljanović, Rudolf Hájek

 

 

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Of horses and men.

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I’m an at-arm’s-length animal lover, which means that even though I enjoy cute YouTube pet videos, I feel very uncomfortable in the presence of actual fauna. The only animals I give the benefit of the doubt are non-snarling dogs, and even this still depends on the hound’s breed. A couple of weeks ago, I was having a picnic with a group of friends on the banks of the Seine when we noticed a group of cute ducklings with their parents. Everyone’s ooh-and-aaah reactions made my stay-away attitude even more ridiculous than usual. What can I say – I enjoy living things as long as they are ONLY digitally present in my proximity.

It’s even worse with horses, since they are big and unpredictable, they bite and kick, and their sex organs are very much out of my visual comfort zone. For the longest time I’ve had a dream about going horseback riding through Mongolia. The only problem is that I’ve only actually sat on a horse maybe three times in my life, and it always ended in a state of panic.

This means that I can only fully appreciate the beauty of mares and stallions when they are presented on a screen. Of Horses and Men (2013) by Benedikt Erlingsson is a cosy and ascetic Icelandic/German portrait of the equine traits in people and human ones in horses. The movie’s narration embraces the variety of action packages, starting with the slow contemplative walk through the absurd dark-humoured trot and ending at an almost unbearable video gallop. The movie plot is absurd, original and somehow exotic, showing the rural routine of isolated Icelandic valley inhabitants and their horses. It’s the place of interspecies harmony, and life-and-death interleaving. Interactions of men and horses are full of harsh love and tender interdependence.

Of Horses and Men is a story of love, envy, and rivalry, but all of these somehow happen in the background, giving prority to the animal-related relationships. Beautiful landscapes and cosy shots can be appreciated both by escapists and down-to-earth admasses, though this movie is clearly not a blockbuster.

So, we spend 90 minutes watching the absurd mare-stallion coituses, extreme frost-attributable killings and insane alcohol-fuelled hunts. I admit, Of Horses and Men might be too much for very sensitive horse lovers, as it shows these animals being abused in a variety of situations. Certain scenes might shock the viewer but, in my opinion, we need to look at the movie as a whole and maintain a healthy distance from the film events. If we do, we will fully appreciate the beauty of this film’s simplicity.

Of Horses and Men is also just so funny. I remember the whole cinema laughing very loudly; I love these moments of human connection in the theatre when everybody, unable to control their laughter, is drying their eyes and wiping their noses. It’s a kind of humour that won’t speak to everyone – you need to be in a specific, absurd kind of mood; you also need to be able to take the animal-human relationships with a pinch of salt.

There is one scene in the movie that was a bit much, even for me. This scene shows a young Spanish man who, put in an extreme situation, chooses to sacrifise the horse’s life in order to survive. I don’t want to give any details, but, just, be prepared for a bit of a shock here.

Despite all these little too-many-and-too-much bits, it’s not a surprise to me that Of Horses and Men was believed to become a Foregn Language Oscar candidate. However, the rather conservative jury didn’t fully appreciate this edgy and slightly naturalistic film. But for us, the tired spectators of the destruction of nature in the cities, it is refreshing to see something so inspired by wildlife.


You’ll enjoy this movie if:

a) you tend to react calmly to nature films that show scenes with animals guts.

b) you’re a lover of the absurd and you’re prepared to see a movie that might be slightly out of your cinematic comfort zone.

c)  you’ve been to Iceland and loved it, or you’d really like to go one day. This film is just sooo… consistent with Icelandic mentality.


 

Title: Of horses and men (Hross í oss)        of_horses_men

Year: 2013

Directed by: Benedikt Erlingsson

Written by: Benedikt Erlingsson

Produced by: Friðrik Þór Friðriksson

 

 

Trailer: