VIFF Reviews: The Sandman, The Singing City, Honey Pupu


The Sandman. Switzerland, 88 min.

Looking for symbolism, teenage angst, high tech fantasy sequences? Not in this quirky comedy about a clerk in a philately shop who dreams of conducting Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Benno’s musical fantasies, however, are routinely sabotaged by his neighbour, a would-be tango singer who insists on practicing late at night in the coffee shop she runs on the ground floor beneath his apartment. But the battle between the two takes second place in the drama when Benno’s body starts secreting sand. An initial trickle soon turns into buckets of the stuff, leaking out of Benno’s jacket and trouser cuffs. That’s only part of the problem. A sniff of the sand imparts a sleep in which Benno dreams he is having a passionate affair with his hated neighbour.

Summary: A beautifully-paced comedy that should not be missed.

The Singing City. Germany, 82 min.

A documentary about the Stuttgart Opera’s preparations for a production of Wagner’s Parsifal. For this production, the director has eschewed the traditional medieval setting in favour of a stage crowded with the wreckage of an iron bridge, whose ruin is supposedly the result of some nuclear holocaust. Nudity and bloody violence abound. At one point at a pause in the dress rehearsal, the conductor announces “We’ve got blood in the orchestra pit.” The best running gag, however, has a voice coach trying unsuccessfully to wring correct German pronunciation out of an American bass-baritone.

Summary: Fun even if you are not a Wagner fan. More fun if you are.

Honey Pupu. Taiwan, 102 min.

Symbolism, teenage angst, high-tech fantasy sequences. They are all here in this wandering narrative about young adults grieving over the “disappearances” of their friends. Turns out that the friends have not been abducted, they’ve just grown up. Oh well, we can expect a couple of these films every year as a new crop of young directors tries to tell those of us who missed it what youth is like. Cinematography was good, though.

Summary: See it only if you missed out on the tortures of being young.

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About aharmlessdrudge

Way back during the late Bronze age -- actually it was the 1950s -- all of us in high school had to take a vocational test to determine our interests and, supposedly, our future careers. I cannot remember the outcome, but I do recall one question that gave me pause. "If you were to win a Nobel prize, would it be in literature or in physics?" I hesitated over the question: although I enjoyed mathematics and science more than English class, I did have a couple of unfinished (and very bad) novels hidden away at home. I cannot remember what I chose back then, but the dilemma followed me to university, where I switched from mathematics to English and -- after a five-year stint in journalism -- back to mathematics. I recently retired as a professor of statistics. Retirement. What a good chance to revive my literary ambitions. I have finished a novel -- more about that in good time -- and a rubble of drafts of articles about mathematics and statistics is taking up space on my hard disk.
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