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TIFF 09: Favorite Moments, Day 5

The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call: New Orleans (Werner Herzog, USA):  This delightful observation has already been spoiled by the quasi-trailer of this film floating around the net, but the best scene in cinema this year is when Nicholas Cage & gunmen shoot a coupla Italian gangsters, to which Cage says in medias-mania: “Shoot him again, his soul is still dancing!”  This literal fit of inspiration is followed by the expulsive cackling laugh only Cage can do, and a camera pan past the corpse to a man wearing the same costume as the dead man break dancing to some kind of American folk music.  If only they never shot again, and the soul danced forever…
Between Two Worlds (Vimukthi Jayasundara, Sri Lanka):  I wished in my heart of heart this, by the director of The Forsaken Land, was better, and it certainly is nice to see an influence of Miklos Jancso on contemporary cinema outside of Eastern Europe, but this is the very definition of overbearing-yet-totally-opaque-national-allegory.  Wait, I’m supposed to focusing on a moment I liked…well before the film started irritating me it was instead tickling my fancy with its great use of the widescreen frame.  This reaches is apex early in something like the fifth shot of the film, a long take that starts working the z-axis of the frame (starting close to the camera and going farther away) by picking up our folk hero laying on a beach, having been washed ashore covered in crabs, and follows him as he gets up, wades back into the water, and, working the x-axis (left to right space), wades over to what is clearly a real cliff and climbs it for real in real time.  Stunning!
White Material (Claire Denis, France):  One phrase: women on motorcycles.  This may be related to the observation about Romero’s recent heroines, but there’s something at once delightful and empowering about women using motorcycles in cinema.  I’m sure many can come up with proper examples, though off the top of my head Rivette’s Le Pont du Nord and Hou’s Goodbye South, Goodbye come to mind.  Perhaps the most memorable image in White Material has Denis giving woman-on-a-motorcycle its due, with Isabelle Huppert blazing down her plantation’s road, riding her bike—no hands!—letting her hair down and defiantly, exultingly stretching her hands in the air. Men on ‘cycles don’t have nearly the same kind of strength or sense of independent as this evocation, and I wonder why that is.

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