Best Film of 2010, according to CWB's critic, Robin Menken


“A Room And A Half” was on my list of Best Film of 2009. As it has never been released in the US, It’s back on my list. It is available on a Yumi DVD in the UK.

“A Room And A Half” In Andrey Khrzhanovskiy’s blissfully inventive pseudo-bio, the visionary 70 year old animator blends animation and live action to illustrate exiled Jewish poet Brodsky’s dreams of returning to Russia to visit his beloved parents. Each flashback of Brodsky’s remembered life is shot in a different period genre, each more wonderful than the next. A mix of animated graphics and stunning hand drawn animation adds to the explosive creativity of the Khrzhanovskiy’s first live action film. With new media threatening to eclipse film, films like this make one want to say, “the rumors of the death of film have been greatly exaggerated.” Another director championing the plastic possibilities of film. Seen at AFI FEST, 2009.

Best of 2010
“Memories Of Overdevelopment”
Cuban-American director Miguel Coyula’s bi-lingual mixed media “Memories of Overdevelopment” was conceived as an answer to Tomas Guttierez Alea’s classic “Memories of Underdevelopment,” (1968) which posed the existential dilemma of Sergio (Sergio Carmona Mendoya) a bourgeois intellectual, alienated from the recent Cuban Revolution, who wiles away his time seducing women. After his wife leaves for Miami, Sergio’s relationship with younger, unsophisticated Elena (Daisy Granadas) leads to a statutory rape case, which he wins. As conceived by novelist Edmundo Desnoes, melancholic Sergio suffered from an ‘Underdeveloped mind’ colonized by First World Imperialism. Alea’s sensual, stream of consciousness approach was both dialectic and intensely personal, modernist and politically engaged.
Alea’s Sergio would be in his eighties, like Desnos himself.
Coyula transposes expat Sergio twenty years forward. His contentious middle-aged Sergio (played by Ron Blair) is divorced by his bitter, wealthy wife, and fired from his post as a University prof for inappropriate sexual conduct with a student. (The chair of his department sees one of his pornographic collages.) He winds up in splendid isolation in Wayne County Utah, “The Last Frontier.”

Desnos, himself an exile, wrote his sequel “Memories Of
Overdevelopment” in 2007, based on his own disillusionment with both the Cuba he left behind, and the increasingly maddening world of the hyper-commercialized United States, where he settled.
Desnos originally worked with Coyula on the film, contributing some of his powerful photo collages to the film.

Coyula’s brilliant non-linear film, weaves past and present, personal and historic events in a cascade of images that cut to the heart of modern alienation. His mordant agit-prop technique should make his teachers at the Cinema School in San Antonio de los Banos proud. Like other Cuban film students of his generation, Coyula was bored by the literary and film classics of the Revolution, yet he’s absorbed the do-it-yourself example of Santiago Alvarez, who brilliant rapid-fire photo-montaged films defined agit-prop to the world, (He left a legacy of 700 works.)

Using Desno’s practice of X-Acto knife collage, Coyula’s Sergio comments on his life through collage, mixing images from the Cuban Revolution, the Church, the news and American advertising in a cascade of powerful, witty images.  Copula’s moved Alvarez and Alea’s dialectic practice into hyper-time. Paying homage to the hand made, Coyula composites complex images (his proscenium, paying homage to Toy Theatres is just one example) he saturates the colors and digitally animates stills. Working alone in Final Cut pro for five years, Coyula has produced an explosive tour de force. Seen at Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival, 2010, and REDCAT.

“Farewell” – Ditteke Mensink crafted a dreamlike love and adventure story from found footage (and period found sound) of the first round the world flight of the Graff Zeppelin. She took the liberty of including footage from other Graff flights and the “The Lost Zeppelin”(1929.)

In an early example of celebrity culture, William Randolph Hearst (the trip’s sponsor) selected socialite Lady Drummond Hay to be the only female reporter on the historic trip, cannily realizing the press value of a comely gal on board. Mensink’s invented love story between Lady Hay and Hearst star reporter Karl von Wiegand turns out to be true, as a look at Lady Hay’s private papers later revealed. You have the uncanny experience of watching a brand new feature film circa 1929. Ditteke Mensink (with researcher Gerard Nijssen) created one of the exceptional films celebrating and reviving cinema in a period when digitally enhanced CG actioners dominate the world’s screens.

“La Pivelina” Tizza Covi and Rainer Frimmel’s narrative with a doc feel. Gypsy circus folk, the subjects of their documentary” Babooska”, play characters based on their life in the love story of the year. With the power of a postmodern Ana Magnani earthy Patty (Patrizia Gerardi) dotes on the toddler girl (Asia Crippa) she finds on a playground. With exquisite simplicity, the Austrian’ Italian couple tease out an unforgettable enclave of characters. Seen at Los Angeles Film Festival, 2010.


About Author

Robin Menken

Robin Menken Robin Menken lives in Los Angeles. She was the Artistic Director of the Second City Workshops, taught at UC Berkeley, USC, Barcelona\'s Ateneu and the Esalin Institute. She was Roberto Rossellini\'s assistant, and worked with Yevgeny Vevteshenku, Glauber Rocha and Eugene Ionesco. She sold numerous screenplays and wrote the OBIE winning The FTA SHow (touring with Jane Fonda, Donald Sutherland and Ben Vereen.) She was a programming consultant and Special Events co-ordinator for numerous film festivals, including the SF, Rio, Havana and N.Y Film Festivals. Her first news outlet was the historic East Village Other.

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