71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance (Michael Haneke – 1994) B

It lacks the focus of Code Unknown even though it shares some of its aspects. It’s intentionally too fragmented I suppose and as such looses a lot of impact. Like the name suggests we get 71 short scenes of various individuals in Austria who are all impacted in one way or another by a senseless shooting at a bank. We get commentary about current world affairs, class struggles, family relationships and immigration. Haneke seems to have figured out how to do a significantly better and more effective film using similar topics a few years later with Code Unknown.

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Blade Runner 2049 (Denis Villeneuve – 2017) A

Remarkable sequel to the 1982 film. It picks up 30 years later where we meet K, a blade runner replicant hunting versions of his own kind who are in hiding. He makes a discovery at one such site that could change everything in the human/replicant relationship. The movie proceeds from that point with a look, feel and pace very much in line with the original. The art direction again is stellar as we get enveloped in the same world of gloomy exteriors, huge holograms and awesome technology. From one scene to the next this is a world that feels lived-in and real. After loving Arrival and Sicario, I knew that Villeneuve would do this right and he did not dissapoint.

Brunch Gazpacho

Brunch Gazpacho3

Two “Spanish” dishes in a row? well, actually my favorite go-to gazpacho recipe is not from a Spanish book. It’s from David Leite’s lovely The New Portuguese table cookbook. So, let’s say this is Portuguese. As a blueprint it is very much like a typical Spanish gazpacho; tomato based with supporting summer vegetables, herbs and plenty of olive oil. It is all held together and made velvety with a few chunks of bread.

Egg

I like this recipe even though it is similar to many others because of the balance it shows. For example it does not use raw onions in the mix like many others do. Onions, even in small amounts, always seem to stick out for my taste and leave an unpleasant after taste. I like that it uses fresh oregano in the mix, it’s lovely. The proportions of everything is just right too. So, I add all ingredients into my Vitamix blender -tomatoes, water-soaked bread, cucumbers, red bell peppers, oregano, little bit of garlic- and let it rip until it is all nice and smooth.

Bacon-Croutons

Poached Egg-Garnishes

Towards the end I drizzle in olive oil and vinegar and let is blend some more. I also love this recipe because it gives you permission to use canned tomatoes! Yes, most gazpacho recipes ask for peak summer tomatoes preferably of an heirloom variety. Truth be told these things are amazing fruit, but they are almost like unicorns where I live and with my schedule. Sighting one and acquiring it is very difficult out there. Once you find them they are usually pretty expensive and because they are not bred for travel the quality is not great. All that is to say that it really is OK to use canned good quality canned tomatoes. The key here is the good quality stuff like the San Marzano imported tomatoes. So, cheap here will not work.

Brunch Gazpacho2

I make a pitcher and enjoy it over a couple of days since no one in my household enjoys “cold tomato soup”. For a lazy Sunday I dressed it up a bit and made it a brunch course of sorts. I poached an egg perfectly and cleanly placed it in the bowl along with bacon pieces, bacon-fat crisped croutons and pickled onions. I poured the gazpacho around it, drizzled it with good olive oil, garnished it with more croutons and thyme and dug in. The simple refreshing soup, the contrast of textures and temperatures transformed the humble cold soup to an elegant satisfying meal.

Brunch Gazpacho

Blade Runner (Ridley Scott – 1982) A

I forgot how much of a noir Blade Runner is. Probably why my 14 year old did not like it as much as i hoped he would. It is not an action-packed sci-fi romp but proceeds deliberately as Deckard hunts down several escaped replicants – engineered humans/cyborgs sort of. Why hunt them? That’s the moral center of the movie. They mostly just want to live their life and be part of society after all. It’s so much more of a detective movie set in a sci-fi world of replicants, holograms and oppressive rainy gloominess. It still is a film with amazing art direction, it was ahead of its time and still is absolutely relevant and wonderful to watch.

Code Unknown (Michael Haneke – 2000) A

A fragmented film set in Paris, mostly. An incident brings several characters to an intersection. It’s not a major incident by any means but it is the spark that propels us as the viewers to start looking into these people’s lives. The threads of the various stories are divided by black screen for a second or two and each one is mostly a long take making us feel more and more as voyeurs. Haneke is really a master with the camera and he resorts to various tricks from tracking to static shots of various lengths.

We follow a woman from Eastern Europe as she gets deported but then leaves her family yet again to illegally enter France and beg in the streets of Paris. We check in on the trials and tribulations of an African immigrant family and take a detour to listen in on their young son and his girlfriend. We have the French actress, her boyfriend, his brother and dad and the various movie within the movie takes where Haneke loves to play with our perspective. Beyond the sheer competent film making that is beautiful to watch there is a touching and relevant commentary here about the various classes of modern French society. I have not seen too many Haneke films but I will be making it a point to check more of them out soon enough.

Caramel (Nadine Labaki – 2007) A-

Beirut straddles many divides, east/west, modernity/tradition, Christianity/Islam, old/new and this lovely film centering on a group of women working in a beauty parlor gets them all. Labaki , who also plays one of the main characters, is very deft in her camera work. It’s odd to compare some of what she does to Bergman or maybe even Almodovar, but I could not help noticing how closely she focuses on the faces of her actors in many close-ups. She lingers and let’s us see the emotions going on there from love to passion to sadness and discomfort. It’s a movie about love in many forms it’s also very funny at times with some pretty good performances.

Cries and Whispers (Ingmar Bergman – 1967) A

Red, this is one hell of a red movie. Apparently this was one of the first Bergman films in color and since red was very difficult to get right he just put it all over the place to make the cinematographer’s job that much more difficult. It’s a stark movie about family connections and deep buried secrets told like a piece of chamber music in three movements centering on three women around the turn of the century. At the center is a fourth one who is dying. Two are her sisters and the third is her maid. The entire film takes place in an old mansion with those red rooms. We get to know the sisters and their husbands and lovers and stories in flashbacks. We learn about the maid and how close she was to her mistress. These are not happy people though. They are broken and have a lot of sharp edges. It shows when they are all gathered under the one roof waiting for their sister to die. Bergman goes all out with the his trademark visual flourishes and style. We get lots of face close-ups, darkness and shadows and all that red. It’s a powerful and memorable film on all levels.