A Trip To The Movies: Review – “The Tribe” 8.19.15

Plemya Movie Poster

As many of you might already know, including my movie meetup and discussion group whom I now see movies with weekly. I have what some may call somewhat of a unique approach to how I pick and choose what films I see. It’s really a rather simple one from my perspective that starts by following press on all of the major festivals that take place throughout the year. Festivals like Cannes (you can pretty much guarantee that if a movie premieres and is well received at Cannes, I will be seeing it later that year or whenever it gets released in the US), New York, Toronto, Sundance, Berlin, and Venice I keep on my radar all year, and then from that point I devise a list of whatever was well received at such and such festival. And that pretty much sums up how my list gets generated. Now there are some exceptions, like films from directors that I admire who choose not to premiere their films at any of the major festivals. Whic applies but is uncharacteristic and is somewhat of a rarity. But even more importantly, this “method” or “approach” to picking films opens up many doors to some of the more lesser known titles that do well at their festival premieres, but unfortunately just don’t seem marketable to a wide audience (and some might say aren’t meant to be). A lot of these are foreign. And each year there’s a pretty substantial list of about 15-20 foreign films that I flag that were well received at some of these festivals, many of them garnering nominations in several categories, and others who wind up winning. Those seem to be the ones I take a closer look at and almost always will add them to my list of movies to see whenever they wind being released here in the States.

Such was the case with “The Tribe”. A film that first caught my attention when it won multiple awards (3 out of the 4 it was nominated for) at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival. Second, and what struck me most, was that it had what appeared to be a rather unique concept – which was (and I quote) – “a movie that unfolds through the non-verbal acting and sign language from a cast of deaf, non-professional actors—with no need for subtitles or voiceover—resulting in a unique, never-before-experienced cinematic event that engages the audience on a new sensory level.” At first I thought to myself – “wait a minute…so basically a contemporary take on the “silent film”?. So while it certainly piqued my interest I wasn’t quite sure what to think of it. Then I kept reading one good thing after another after another about it and decided to myself that there must be something here of value. Knowing little to next to nothing about it other than the 3 awards it picked up at Cannes, the film’s highly original concept, and seeing the kind of trailer that I love but are rare nowadays in that it told you little to next to nothing about it, I jumped at the opportunity to see it during its 1-night/1 show limited engagement here in Portland.

“The Tribe” was nothing like I had ever seen before. It was a total immersive experience into the world of the all deaf characters that inhabited the film. It also totally went against any expectations or preconceived notions that I had going into it. What worked for me here on almost every level is the filmmaker’s ability to engage the audience and keep them on the edge of their seats throughout its entire 2+ hour duration. A mighty difficult task to do taking into account that it revolves around a group or “tribe” (i.e. a gang) of deaf Ukrainian boys in a boarding school (if you even want to even call it a “school” – those who see it will know what I mean) that spend little to no time in class (why would you if there’s nobody there to tell you to?). You see, to expand on the story much further would give away some key spoilers that could potentially ruin it for those who plan to see it. But what I will say is that in this this particular school its boys and girls operate and function in the furthest possible realm of anything you could imagine of what we deem as a proper school. Which forced and challenged the audience to guess what it really all revolved around. It’s a stunning achievement given the many shapes and forms the story takes on as it unfolds, and it brings you deeper and deeper into something you just might not thought possible. The cinematography is beautiful, with long tracking shots and very few edits that really allow the viewer unprecedented access into the proceedings. It’s somewhat of a “deaf crime film” that was incredibly intense; never mind highly controversial, with its highly explicit sex scenes and unspeakable acts of violence in its final act that I almost had to look away from (really). In trying to keep this short as again to not give away any spoilers, “The Tribe” wound up being the most truly unique experiences I’ve had at the theater so far this year, and I walked away from it speechless. It’s a master work of foreign cinema, and it should easily earn a spot on my list of the best films at year’s end.


Cannes Favorite – The Tribe – Limited Engagement 1 Show Only – Hollywood Theatre

Wednesday, Aug 19, 2015, 7:30 PM

Hollywood Theatre
4122 NE Sandy Blvd Portland, OR

6 Portland Film Enthusiasts Went

Winner of multiple 2014 Cannes Film Festival Awards, THE TRIBE is an undeniably original and intense feature debut set in the insular world of a Ukrainian high school for the deaf. The movie unfolds through the non-verbal acting and sign language from a cast of deaf, non-professional actors—with no need for subtitles or voiceover—resulting in a uni…

Check out this Meetup →

Review: ‘Faust’ 9.21.14

I guess I wasn’t quite sure what I was expecting going into a film like this one. I knew very little about it other than the fact that it had won the Golden Lion prize at the 2011 Venice Film Festival. A very prestigious award that’s not quite on par with the Best Picture of the festival, but one that is usually reserved more for films that won over the majority of audience crowd members. Films presented with this award are films that the festival hopes will gain exposure by it just merely having been given it. Why it wasn’t released in the US until 3 years after its initial release date internationally is something I don’t have an answer to. Other than that with most foreign films it’s difficult for them to find a US distributor, so some movies take upwards to 2-3 years after their domestic release date to hit international markets. So with all of that in mind I figured it was at least something worth looking into. I also knew little to next to nothing about Russian director Aleksandr Sokurov other than he has had quite a long career having released almost a film a year since the mid 1970’s. Admittedly having never seen any of his prior work I went into this one with almost a blank slate.

The story focuses on Faust, a German doctor, who at the very beginning of the film we see conducting some kind of experimental surgical procedure on a cadaver. We then get a glimpse into his turmultous relationship with his father, also a doctor, but who has more or less given up on his son because of his disobedience and determination to do things his own way. Faust is a nobleman but lives the life of a street person – malnourished, no money for ink to write, sleep deprived, and beaten down. He is a man who as quoted in the film – “has lost the meaning of life”. Then one day, he meets an unsuspecting guest who’s traveling through, and the two of them come across some sort of “slave market”, where said traveler dons his clothes and we see that he is anatomically unlike anyone else (a strange, bizarre scene indeed). Faust seems to be unphased by this while others uunderstandably seem petrified. Fausts’ suspicions that this man is some sort of an otherworldy figure becomes true when through as if with a stroke of magic, he makes wine pour freely out of the walls of caves. This new supreme being gives Faust a sense of newfound hope, and the two of them begin to focus on what Faust has always wanted to attain but has been too unconfident and down on his luck to do so, which is to find the love of a woman. Faust does find a young girl that puts the twinkle in his eye, and both he and said unsuspecting traveler make it a mission to get her to fall in love with him.

“Faust” has some very interesting things going for it. As with many period pieces (it takes place during the early to mid 19th century) it has some beautiful costume design, art direction, and set pieces. From a film making stand point it shot in a unique kind of camera filter, with oversaturated lighting, which distorts the image and makes things almost look dream-like. Which, as it comes to a close, you will understand why the decision was made to film it like such. Some of the scenes, especially towards the film’s end are exquisitely and elegantly shot. Yet all of that aside, the story is meandering, and at a lengthy 2 hours and 20 minutes, it almost becomes a tedious effort for that on behalf of the viewer. It’s also disjointed, muddled, and utterly confusing throughout much of the film. Trying to explore existensial themes like God vs. the Devil and the meaning of life and death, with an underlying metaphor about Adam and Eve but with a twisted spin on it. None of which I found to be effective in the slightest. To top things off, when we do get to the climax, after a laborious 140 minutes, it feels like just another knock off of Ingmar Bergman’s masterful 1957 film – “The Seventh Seal”. So much so that I found myself rolling my eyes at it because it clearly wore its influences on its sleeve. Despite some interesting ideas from a cinematic stand point, this wound up being a rather shallow affair with too few redeeming qualities.

Grade: C