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2012 MUBI World Cup Voting, Match #1: Iran (The Runner) vs. Romania (Lust for Gold)

Brother​deacon

about 2 years ago

IRAN (The Runner) 1 ROMANIA (Lust for Gold) 0

LUST FOR GOLD, 1st story: interesting, very loose narrative structure, moody and dreamy, beautifully photographed, so-so acting, some nice compositions, some lazy compositions. The backlit interiors of the beautiful daughter and others became something of a bore. Liked the music, even the weird chorus, though it could seem a cheap narrative trick to deliver period feel and a feeling of noble import, which is really the story’s business. I believe this film is titled Vilva Baii, and is directed by Mircea Veroiu from a story by Ion Agarbiceanu

LUST FOR GOLD, 2nd story sort of fractured its plots unintelligibly—lots of funerals, marriages, young wives to be. Why? Seems it hinged on one wife, and one old husband. Like a fairy tale, no need for another marriage at the end in truncated form with intimations of more. Like telling the same joke 3 times in a row, or was it 4. Kinda low on the suspense scale, was anyone ever surprised at anything? Sure could find lots of gorgeous actresses in 1974 Romania. Acting was so-so, some very dramatic blocking and composition. The main wife’s death scene was awful. I never felt the directors, either one, cared about the themes inherent in their stories. Perhaps there was a certain censorship at that time, lending ease of distribution to literary classics. At least Vilva Baii was clouded in a near phantasmagoria, sublimating the narrative somewhat in a world of dreams. The second story, Lada, had no such ruse and suffered. Directed by Dan Piţa. Question—what does “the pope’s sister” refer to. Is it a Catholic Pope? Does pope have another definition I don’t know? Surely she doesn’t need to marry an old, decrepit rich man if she’s the Catholic Pope’s sister. Sub-title goof?

Is this a compilation movie, since we have 2 separate directors and separate acting cores shooting 2 separate short films taken from similarly themed stories by the same author (Ion Agarbiceanu)? I like the first story and director’s work much more than the second director’s. So how do I vote? There are actually two films vs one film.

THE RUNNER—I have a soft spot for this film. I first saw it at the Fox Venice Theater in Los Angeles not long after it’s release. I believe the director (Amir Naderi) had come to L.A. and brought a print. It was the first Iranian film I’d seen and I liked it very much. Owing to the rather draconian censors in Khomeni’s Iran, the director’s last film as well as other of his works had been banned. I noticed that this one was released by The Institute for the Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults. I then suppose, since his earlier films had been banned, that Naderi using children in his story was a necessity if he wanted his film to ever see the light of day—what we may call “a work-around.” Most film makers don’t need to work under such constraints. The political subtext of those in power abusing and harassing the lesser, marginal pockets of countrymen (portrayed by the child) isn’t terribly subtle, but seemed to please the censors. I found the shots exciting, the locales with constant flat horizons were an almost neutral background upon which to perform many of the films lonelier concerns—the child also being an orphan in need of everything and industrious enough to gain at least the basics of survival. It’s not flawless, and has some odd editorial decisions, but it often worked very well with a certain austere intention, or what seems to be intention. It was a film which felt necessary.

I admire both films, especially the first part of Lust for Gold and The Runner.

toodead

about 2 years ago

Iran (The Runner) 0 – Romania (Lust for Gold) 1

i couldn’t possibly wax lyrical at those people that don’t gasp at the pale brilliance of a film shot through frozen moonlight, as what’s to say to blind madmen?

on the other hand, i’ll echo fake beard in thinking that sound is naderi’s sublime medium – and something he later perfected the use of to the point of a heart-attack that i almost had watching yet another child run around new york in his film sound barrier. and in that film, the child was not an inevitable product of funding, and i didn’t mind him.

ruby stevens

about 2 years ago

interesting point about political constraints on ‘the runner’.
also, frozen moonlight, very nice mags :)

8-12 romania

if i’m annoying anyone by keeping a running score let me know :P

i’m excited!

Jerry Johnson

about 2 years ago

Iran (The Runner) 0 – Romania (Lust for Gold) 1

The screamingly obvious precedent for The Runner, and a film Naderi undoubtedly watched in film school, is Rossellini’s Germany Year Zero.

Other films made for The Institute for the Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults include Kiarostami’s child films, which The Runner pales miserably to in comparison.

Rohit

about 2 years ago

Pretty lousy analysis from Fake Beard. Don’t fucking oppose what I said for the sake of it. Planes and ships are a way for him to travel to far off lands that are representing the adventurer in him. He is a child after all and you can’t blame him for shouting at planes flying in the sky. I have shouted at planes when I was young, goddammit! I don’t see whats so fucking crazy or jarring about it. He wants to attract attention which means he wants to make himself heard! Is this so difficult to understand? Shouting at planes and ships is just one aspect of the film. What about all those instances where he puts up a fight against people who try to exploit him? His final race for a block of ice; His determination to learn to read; Is this not a fight against his destiny? He attacks the foreigner because he accuses him in the first place! He is a self respecting kid who decides not to take bullshit from a colonialist. The restaurant owner doesn’t know this kid anyway and he wouldn’t take his side to lose clients. He takes his revenge by attacking the foreigner who comes to his country to get drunk and steal his country’s valuable resources. I don’t see anything weird about that.

I must say, the reasons that people have come up with(barring a few) to vote against The Runner have been extremely lousy. Come up with something better or just say you like vacuous beautiful shit.

ps3.

about 2 years ago

Iran (The Runner) 1 – Romania (Lust for Gold) 0

The Runner appears to be a film that is not about running, it doesn’t glorify going it alone or sentimentalise the outsider amidst the fog horns of the oil ships. It’s about the harshness of the landscape in times of war, the importance of going to school and learning to read, and the importance of community in the wake of a new generation. The neo-realist elements have more to do with the |ranian context than anything Italian. So i’d say it has more to do with Taxi Driver than it does the other films it has been compared to here.

I found Lust For Gold simple parables with a heavy handed and kind of remedial message that ultimately makes for a set of mildly interesting folk tales. It’d be nice to know more about it, and perhaps a better print.

herb shellen​berger

about 2 years ago

I must say the reasons that people have come up with(barring a few) to vote against The Runner have been extremely lousy. Come up with something better or just say you like vacuous beautiful shit.

I like vacuous beautiful shit and, speaking to my own personal taste, I’m looking much more at visual composition and visual innovation than good writing. That’s probably why I often prefer avant garde or otherwise visually-based films to ones that are more narrative/storytelling, though there are plenty of exceptions of course. In this case I think both films serve the purpose of telling a story, perhaps even in a similar way, but Lust for Gold did more for me in terms of visuals.

Rohit

about 2 years ago

^that’s a better reason. That doesn’t make your tastes better by the way. Just saying.

tomas.roges

about 2 years ago

Iran (The Runner) 0 – Romania (Lust for Gold) 1

Ari

about 2 years ago

“The neo-realist elements have more to do with the |ranian context than anything Italian. So i’d say it has more to do with Taxi Driver than it does the other films it has been compared to here.”

These two sentences together do not make any sense.

Autumn Leaf

about 2 years ago

“I must say, the reasons that people have come up with(barring a few) to vote against The Runner have been extremely lousy. Come up with something better or just say you like vacuous beautiful shit.”

What?

This is the first voting topic and we’re already descending in to ad hominems and fighting?…..sigh…..

I was being honest to my experiences with the film in my posts. What I said earlier in the topic is genuinely how I felt whilst watching the film and after watching it. They’re the only reasons I can give for how I feel about the film, and they’re the only reasons of any worth for justifying my vote for the film because they’re the only reasons that are true to my experience.

I can understand you being frustrated that people don’t see the film like you do or like the film as much as you do – I get frustrated over such things all the time – but that doesn’t justify pissing on other people’s opinions and insinuating that the connections they make with the films they do love are somehow insincere.

ps3.

about 2 years ago

Ah, but when you watch Taxi Driver you know that the film is as much about New York as it is about Scorsese. Some people have compared the sentimentality to American films and Stephen Spielberg and Jerry Johnson mentioned Rossellini at film school, that doesn’t surprise me but The Runner looks like an exceptional Iranian film from 1985.

Rohit

about 2 years ago

All I am demanding from people is to come up with rational reasons or give no reason at all! Don’t give me bullshit like : " I didn’t like the film because of the screaming kid" or " I did not like the sentimentality in the film (when its not even sentimental)" or compare it with some bullshit film like Rocky or Slumdog Millionaire.

I spewed my venom on Fake Beard because he did not respect my opinion and tried to show how he interpreted the film better than my “pedestrian” view point without giving a rational explanation. He even quotes Brian wrongly when Brian himself has partially agreed with my view point. Anyway, I am aware of his habit of being high handed in general so I expect this kind of stuff from him.

@Lily
You don’t need to explain anything since its your own submission. I don’t expect you to vote against your own film anyway. I rated both the films equally so its not like I hate Lust for Gold. I like my share of vacuous beautiful shit as well; the only difference being that I know what to choose from when such a film is pitted against a truly powerful work of art.

Ari

about 2 years ago

At the risk of incurring Rohit’s wrath, I gotta go with Jerry on this one. The Runner is terrible faux humanism for me. Sentimentality = doe-eyed street urchin looking forlorn and eyes always downcast while being yelled at by adults or bullied or otherwise humiliated. I think there are a hundred shots in the film of this. Naderi’s artlessness includes two visual tricks – camera pans/tracking shots of landscapes preferably with boys running or biking through them and medium shots of the protagonist with long lenses).

Some striking settings but mostly used for easy and leaden visual metaphors. Yes, ships and planes are symbols of escape, and just in case you missed that, Naderi will juxtapose the plane with a shot of the boy from behind a fence (get it? he’s trapped). Almost each scene is set up for maximum obvious impact as if Naderi can’t allow for a less spoon fed approach to the material Boy sees one-legged handicapped man cut to boy running in another Naderi tracking shot (get it?). Yes, running is a symbol of struggle. Yes, screaming is a way of demanding recognition even though he’s seen as negligible and invisible. The film is faux humanism because the child protagonist are never anything more than the symbols they represent for Naderi.

And unlike Naderi’s Iranian peers who bring great sociological insights in their films, I learned absolutely nothing about Iranian society here.

Gotta watch Lust for Gold now but I imagine it will be hard for it not to get my vote.

Rohit

about 2 years ago

And unlike Naderi’s Iranian peers who bring great sociological insights in their films, I learned absolutely nothing about Iranian society here.
Gotta watch Lust for Gold now but I imagine it will be hard for it not to get my vote.

^Good reasons except the last one. You need not learn anything about Iran just because that film is made there. It’s a humanist film and not culture tourism for foreigners like you.

Second, don’t watch any film with a prejudice. Don’t imagine that you will like Lust for Gold more than The Runner even before watching it. That’s the reason I believe its better to watch films well in advance before voting happens. This entire exercise of voting is to fuel rational discussions about the film and not about who will win.

The Africa Film Project

about 2 years ago

I think we need a swear box for this competition ;)

Rohit

about 2 years ago

I don’t really see the film as being about hope or hopelessness or misery or anything else, it has the form of a skeletal neo-realist melodrama that is punctuated with brief moments of despair, but also defiance, spunk and joy, moments which, by capturing the hero’s flights (aural, or kinetic), however transient, from the film’s (visual and static) world, achieve a harsh, elemental poignancy. It does not even try to convey (let alone spoon-feed) any emotion, purely record them as sound and image.

^It’s pseudo intellectual crap like this that makes my blood boil. I have no reason to swear against arguments that make sense.

rajiv ibrahim

about 2 years ago

Iran (The Runner) 0 – Romania (Lust for Gold) 1

Ari

about 2 years ago

“^Good reasons except the last one. You need not learn anything about Iran just because that film is made there. It’s a humanist film and not culture tourism for foreigners like you.”

Sure, I’m a foreigner but it seems this film is more made for foreigners/culture tourists on the film festival circuit than Iranians. My point is more that The Runner lacks any sociological vision that grounds it to its place. Using the perspective of a child is fine but failing to go beyond that is what distinguishes Naderi’s film from other Iranian films with child protagonists.

“Second, don’t watch any film with a prejudice. Don’t imagine that you will like Lust for Gold more than The Runner even before watching it. That’s the reason I believe its better to watch films well in advance before voting happens. This entire exercise of voting is to fuel rational discussions about the film and not about who will win”

Don’t worry. I’ll go into Lust for Gold with an open mind. Because these things are more interesting to me as means of exploring and discussing films, voting is secondary in any case.

toodead

about 2 years ago

hahaha! welcome to the cup, rohit! :) you come to the forum once to cast your vote, then all the rest of the time to watch your favourites burn. it always astonishes me to find that there are an inordinate number of morons prepared to vote for the wrong film and that no amount of gentle gentle illumination will change their flimsy, stubborn minds…..it’s part of the fun….

Rohit

about 2 years ago

well…I have a habit of getting worked up over things that I feel strongly about. That’s one reason I wanted to stay out of the voting process altogether but I couldn’t convince myself not to vote for The Runner which I thought was a brilliant film. Anyway, I sense less trouble in the upcoming matches unless something really good comes up.

Max painter

about 2 years ago

Iran (The Runner) 0 – Romania (Lust for Gold) 1

I have to also mention the heights Naderi reaches in later New York portraits Marathon and Sound Barrier, urban claustraphobia with the scratching repetitive sounds pumping to the whirlwind speeds of blurred life, to the point of singular filmic focus, sound and image askew till a blistering finale of harmony The latter’s central child figure having no need to scream (well, somewhat due to a characteristic inability), anxiety of harsh life through pulsating rhythms, plot points peripherally explained, partially inaudible, a fragmented glimpse of the child presenting a focus far distanced from sentimental purposes. These trends lead me to understand the analysis of The Runner as patterns of hopeless despair, more distanced from sentimentality than the recurring reaction here seems to indicate. The problem I have is, the muddled times, just here an there, the film dips its toes into highly sentimental tactics. That is, the scenes like the tourist accusing the kid of theft. On that note:

You need not learn anything about Iran just because that film is made there. It’s a humanist film and not culture tourism for foreigners like you.

Sure, but if it’s about universal strife, childhood experience, etc., why indulge in this snippet of a political element that doesn’t really define the specifics of, say, tourists in Iran, but just a portrait of the bad colonizer. I can understand including such a scene for the ambience of his environment, without a necessity of it being a central study of the film, but its presented in a way that I was all too nervously expecting, a generic and expository scene, probably the only bit I would directly point to as being included for that international festival audience. The intended message was already so well portrayed in the endless running, and wordless panting in the dusty lands. Also, jeez am I hoping the inclusion of ‘what a wonderful world’ was simply background music. But, certainly not a film I hate, I just prefer the elements Naderi would later masterfully hone in on.

As for lust for gold, well, I guess I love vacuous beautiful shit, and this shit is a reeeeal beaut. Though I’d also see it as a construction of folkish icons, characteristic situations, postcard images for the lands without postcards, except populated by walking glazed eyes, sentimentality caught in the back of your throat as they peer to the ground. And, I’m not at all definite on this, but in regards to the song lyrics, as I understand they’re quite a mixture of archaic language and terminology that doesn’t really translate in these subs (unless a romanian speaker wants to frantically wag their finger at my false info).

tomas.roges

about 2 years ago

I liked both of these films quite a bit. There wasnt a whole lot keeping me from voting one way or another. The negative response to The Runner seems unessarilly exaggerated. Quite like being negative just for the sake of being so. But what do I know.

răpciun​e

about 2 years ago

Iran (The Runner) 0 – Romania (Lust for Gold) 1

Rissela​da

-moderator-
about 2 years ago

Iran (The Runner) 1 – Romania (Lust for Gold) 0

This is great. I’m glad we are getting so much activity and comments, especially since this was the first match announced and I was afraid everyone had gotten all of their comments out in the voting secrets thread. But I’m glad that we can continue these conversations further and deeper. I’ll just use this post to comment on what other people have said.

Jerry Johnson’s post on ‘Cliche-ridden wrought by sentimental telephoto lens’ made me worry. Upon viewing it I was met with an incredible film on self-determination whose impact was out-of-the-blue and probably one of the films that I will remember long after this Cup.

@Coheed 2.0
There are a lot of people here with idiosyncratic tastes, and I think Jerry would probably count as one of them. I’d check out their profiles to see how much your tastes seem to match before letting any of their comments worry you too much. (although maybe you already did this with Jerry).

This may be in part due to the film striking me as one of those films that expects you to root on, cry for and cheer for the protagonist just because they’re a child (cringe).

@Lily
You really think the protagonist being a child is the only reason you are expected to root for him? I feel that if it was an older man in similar circumstances you would still be just as expected to root for him. The main factor to me seems to be that he’s essentially been neglected and shunned by most segments of society and still finds a way to stay positive, create his own home, and keep trying with new ways of getting on.

i’m not the greatest at analyzing what i like/don’t like about films but i will make an effort to give reasons.

@Ruby
Even a couple sentences like you put is great. It’s by far more fulfilling to other people participating than just posting a vote with no explanation. It helps people get a better survey if anything. I’m glad most people are leaving comments with their votes.

Maybe I have a completely different take on The Runner than everyone else, but I don’t see it as sentimental at all. There is no triumph or happy future in store for this kid. I didn’t see his wailing at the airport, especially at the end, as anything more than pathetic. His big ‘win’ with the ice block—what exactly did he win? The ice had melted—he accomplished nothing. As a homeless orphan in Iran he may be able to learn to read, but what chance does he really have to escape his plight? I didn’t see much of one. I saw the film as a statement about hopelessness.

@House
I see kind of a mix here of pessimism and optimism, probably the kind I like the best actually. It’s the kind where everything seems to be going bad, but the positive attitude of the people are still unquenchable. The kid’s situation sucks, but he’s still living life more fully and with more momentum than a lot of people I know who “have it well off”.

Lust for Gold had a wonderful opening sequence… i liked it a lot but i preferred the first half of the film to the second.

@Cat
Same here.

I enjoyed the music, and the non-vocal parts of the soundtrack in particular.

@Brian
I know I’ve heard the funeral procession music before in another film. Do you or anyone else know where else this same tune features promimently?

Lust for Gold’s anthology structure, black and white characterizations, and the demise of characters based on their own greed put this on a continuum with those old 50’s horror comics. Hell, even the weird songs telling us what was going on in the plot was a little like having a Crypt Keeper introduction.

@Brad
Nice! I like that comparison. I actually wish each of them had a bit more crypt keeper pizzazz though.

Admittedly part of this may just be that I dislike most kids and am wary of a lot of films for fear that they’re going to try and use kids as a shortcut to easy emotional response.

@Lily
Ha! I’m with you there actually. I prefer when kids in movies aren’t used that way. Usually they are precocious kids that I just want to smack around. Usually they are actors who are better at acting like adults than real kids. I usually like films where the kinds are kind of dimwitted and snotty, like real kids. :) For some reason I actually kind of felt that way with this kid. He didn’t seem that precocious. I kind of felt for him because he was a failure in a lot of ways.

Interestingly both films on display here pre-date the hype and go to prove that both national cinemas have had a long and distinguished history in cinema.

@Kuxa
Yeah thanks for pointing that out. Although this cup does have a lot of very recent films, I’m glad we still have a good share that go back before some of the cinematic booms in some of these nations.

One last point. I am very happy about the way this cup is progressing. rather than talking about winning / losing or which country has got the best chances we seem to be enjoying and concentrating on the films at hand which is marvellous!!!!!!

@Kuxa
Hurrah! Yeah the cup is just a vehicle for enjoying some films. I’m glad that for whatever reason it’s working. I will give most of the credit to the great group of people we have on the site right now rather than too much to my structuring of the cup, but I really hope this momentum and high level of interest and participation continue.

I’m not really good at giving such sophisticated reason.

@Rio
Again, I’m glad you can at least give us an impression of your reactions. I often don’t feel very sophisticated in my reasons for liking a film either, but I feel like I appreciate my own reasons if I at least try to articulate them somewhat.

Amiro, in ‘The Runner’, along with Beizai’s ‘Bashu’, is my favourite of all Iranian cinematic children. He’s not looking for golden fish, lost shoes or even friends’ houses

@Jorge
True, but for me he can’t quite top the blind kid looking for paradise.

Kinda low on the suspense scale, was anyone ever surprised at anything?

@brother​deacon
Not me

Question—what does “the pope’s sister” refer to

@brother​deacon
I really wondered this too….

So how do I vote? There are actually two films vs one film.

@brotherdeacon
In cases like this I usually just kind of average them out.

I then suppose, since his earlier films had been banned, that Naderi using children in his story was a necessity if he wanted his film to ever see the light of day—what we may call “a work-around.” Most film makers don’t need to work under such constraints. The political subtext of those in power abusing and harassing the lesser, marginal pockets of countrymen (portrayed by the child) isn’t terribly subtle, but seemed to please the censors.

@brotherdeacon
Another great point, and probably why so many films from Iran have featured child protagonists, as has been pointed out.

if i’m annoying anyone by keeping a running score let me know

@Ruby
Not at all. It helps me a lot.

The neo-realist elements have more to do with the |ranian context than anything Italian. So i’d say it has more to do with Taxi Driver than it does the other films it has been compared to here.

Ha! This actually did make a lot of sense to me. :)

I don’t expect you to vote against your own film anyway.

I’m kind of hoping I find enough new good films in this cup that I end up voting against the films I submitted a few times. :)

I learned absolutely nothing about Iranian society here

@Ari
Except what part of the landscape looks like. Which for me is a big thing.

it always astonishes me to find that there are an inordinate number of morons prepared to vote for the wrong film and that no amount of gentle gentle illumination will change their flimsy, stubborn minds…..it’s part of the fun….

@Magpies
HA! Yes, it’s part of the masochistic frustration that makes it so fun. Nikolaidis winning the directors cup!??!?! And yet I still come back for more. :)

Jerry Johnson

about 2 years ago

There are a lot of people here with idiosyncratic tastes, and I think Jerry would probably count as one of them.

Listen here, you whore-mongering bitch of a fuck (no offense, just trying to adapt to the general tone of the thread): while my tastes may be “idiosyncratic,” my knowledge of film history and The Runner’s place in it are not. That I’m the only one who can place The Runner contextually does not make me idiosyncratic; it makes me most educated.

The Runner is practically a carbon copy of Germany Year Zero and it comes at the tail end of a major Iranian cinema movement funded and sponsored by The Institute for the Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults in Iran, which gave rise and voice to many of the great Iranian filmmakers during the 70’s. The Runner opportunistically aped and gained inspiration from a treasure trove of predecessors, and so it deserves to be compared to those predecessors. It fails in that comparison. That Rohit can write so forcefully about this film without the slightest clue about where it comes from is a perfect illustration of the exuberance of ignorance.

Any of you other bitches want a piece of me? Meet me over in The Way You Wanted Me thread. I’ll take on all of you.

ruby stevens

about 2 years ago

OMFGROFLOL

it’s almost like dimitris never left

score is now: 10-17 romania

Rohit

about 2 years ago

and what if it takes inspiration from Germany Year Zero? I don’t quite understand your argument here. The context and handling of the subject is entirely different. You treat a film on its own merit and not by whether its better or worse than its predecessors.

meg 

about 2 years ago

so true that lack of depth of knowledge along with personal values, basic temperament and life experience not to overlook what’s going on right now in one’s life (such as a grief or rage situation) are all going to contribute to a person’s perception of a film. we all get the feeling sometimes “seems like you saw a different film ltogether to…”& how goddam boring (not to mention beyond impossible) it would be if we were all sitting at the same place with a b c d e above so …yeah pretty redundant fighting about it and even more so abusing each other heh …but as you were, all good entertainment I’spose but to my mind once knowledge is draped in arrogance it becomes of little merit

Ari

about 2 years ago

Ah, how quickly we move from talking about the film to talking about talking about the film!