Review: Far From Men

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Viggo in the Sydney Morning Herald


Source: Sidney Morning Herald.
Found By: Chrissie
Many thanks to Chrissie for bringing us more from the Austrailian promotion of Far From Men.
Quote:

Far From Men: Viggo Mortensen saddles up in Albert Camus' short story

01darups.jpg
© One World Films.
by Stephanie Bunbury

Few actors can do stillness on screen with as much conviction as Viggo Mortensen. That chiselled face, turned towards a landscape or held in concentration as someone else speaks, can stand in for any amount of narrative exposition: look at any of Mortensen's characters and you know, without having to be told about it, that man's had a hell of a past. When he does speak, of course – in whichever language, given he speaks four and has learned new ones on the hop for several of his films – you're the one paying attention. Quiet as he is, he commands the screen.

That stillness works for him in Far From Men, a film adapted by French director David Oelhoffen from one of Albert Camus' short stories. It takes place in Algeria in 1954, when the revolt that would eventually overthrow French rule was brewing. Mortensen plays Daru, a schoolteacher in a remote village who, just as he is weighing up whether it is safe to stay, is charged by the local colonial authorities with taking a confessed murderer (played by Reda Kateb, familiar from The Prophet) to the nearest courthouse. The man will be tried under French law, then executed.

The story may be relatively modern, but it plays out like a classic western. The men's journey in the original Camus story takes only two hours; Oelhoffen stretches it to take days, during which time they discover that each man has his own burden of guilt and that, perhaps, they can set each other free. As in all good westerns, their own dramas are magnified by the landscape – in this instance the High Atlas – and by an atmospheric score. Nick Cave and Warren Ellis wrote the music.

"I don't think westerns have to be limited to 19th-century North America," says Mortensen. "In a western, an important element is the invading and supposedly civilising society imposing its will – or trying to – on the indigenous population. That is what happened in Algeria. When we were shooting, I thought about European versus native populations in America, but I also thought about Gaza; I thought about the artificial country called Iraq that was created by Europeans and is now falling apart."

Mortensen is a remarkably well-preserved 56. He came to the screen late – in 1985, as an Amish farmer in Peter Weir's Witness – and to fame even later, when he was brought in as a last-minute replacement for Stuart Townsend to play the heroic Aragorn in Lord of the Rings. That film's success was his ticket to a big career as a leading man; instead, he continued to live modestly, write poetry, paint and used his Rings money to fund a new publishing house putting out art books. "All of a sudden I had options," he remembered in a recent interview. "But now, more than ever, I was thinking I should find a good story, something I wouldn't be embarrassed to see in the cinema."

He was eventually lured from his lair by David Cronenberg to star in A History of Violence, a clever thriller that explores ideas of identity and memory; they went on to make two more films together, Eastern Promises – for which he was nominated for an Oscar – and the under-rated A Dangerous Method. More recently, he has produced the films in which he has appeared: low-budget, adventurous and notably filmed outdoors. As a producer, he is hands-off. "You can't control art," he says. "Well, you can try, but my interest in producing is to help the author of these stories protect their vision." He has his own job to do.

Mortensen comes to a film having already travelled the region in which it is set, read its history and often learned its language. For Eastern Promises he went to the village in Russia his character calls home; for The Road, which he made with Australian director John Hillcoat, he made sure his feet were soaking wet before every day's shoot so he would be authentically uncomfortable. "It's perfectly fine for an actor to say I'm just going to learn the lines and get on the horse, but I happen to enjoy digging deeper," he says. Reda Kateb describes him as "like an actor-citizen in his sense of responsibility".

That kind of immersion means that his roles, especially if they are physically or emotionally gruelling, become part of his life. His last spoken-word album, Under the Weather, was dedicated to Albert Camus, whom he greatly admires for taking a principled stance against Stalin even though it cost him his closest friendships on the French left. "He suffered during his lifetime by being honest, by being true to himself, by staying in the moment," says Mortensen reverently.

If Camus had not been a writer, he believes, he would have been a teacher like Daru in his story. And yet Daru is not quite a hero; his prisoner accuses him of fooling himself that he is engaged with life as a teacher when, in fact, hiding away in a village school is his way of avoiding it. "And on some level it is true," says Mortensen. "On some level, both their stories – individually and as a team – are about saying yes to life. Yes instead of no."

It is something we risk as we age, he knows. Even Mortensen – an actor, poet, painter, producer, horseman, linguist, political activist – is at risk. "I try to say yes," he says. "But we get stuck in our ways of doing things and we don't even realise it. But by being in movies, I'm forced to look at the world from points of view different from mine. It's a way of saying 'yes, I will keep learning'."

© Fairfax Media. Images © One World Films.

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When war forges an unlikely bond


Source: The West Australian.
Found By: Chrissie


Thanks to Chrissie for the find. More promotion of Far From Men in Australia with this interview at the West Australian.


Quote:

After his star-making turn as Aragorn in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Viggo Mortensen was unwilling to continue with unwieldy Hollywood behemoths and “make something like Superman 12”, as he puts it.

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© One World Films.
Instead he turned his talents to David Cronenberg, a director who welcomes a close collaboration, and together they created another trilogy, A History of Violence, Eastern Promises and A Dangerous Method, which satisfied the actor's more humanistic inclinations.

Lately Mortensen's movies have become even smaller and more collaborative and he is producing movies via his publishing company, Perceval Press, which he set up with most of his LOTR earnings in 2002. His own art, books, poetry and albums are also available on Perceval.

"You want to help people get their vision across in the best way you can," says the still handsome, well-preserved 56-year-old.

Now living in Madrid with Spanish actress Ariadna Gil (Pan's Labyrinth) 46, whom he met on the 2006 Spanish film Alatriste, Mortensen first produced the 2012 Argentine film Everybody Has a Plan, where he played twins.

Recently he produced two films which come with international accolades: Jauja, an Argentine- Danish-French production by Argentinian director Lisandro Alonso was a prize winner in Cannes last year; and David Oelhoffen's French film and Venice prize winner, Far From Men, which is a version of Albert Camus' short story The Guest translated to the western genre.

We meet to discuss the latter, which is set during the 1954 Algerian War and follows Daru, a reclusive French teacher (Mortensen) and Mohamed (rising French-Algerian star Reda Kateb), an Arabic dissident villager accused of murder, as they forge a bond. In the midst of an icy winter they are forced to flee across the Atlas Mountains with horsemen seeking justice on their tails.

"It's a very challenging story and I like a challenge," notes Mortensen, who concedes the dramatic scenes were probably the hardest. "Since his wife's death Daru's living in the past. He's running away from life and Mohamed helps him realise he doesn't want to do that any more.

"I like this historical period in North Africa and this particular situation. I also thought of other colonial situations, the conflict between other supposed civilising societies whether it be in North America or in South America where I was raised in Argentina. The conflict and consequences of that clash are felt for generations. It takes a long time to get past the damage on both sides."

In his teens Mortensen had read several works by Camus, a Frenchman born and raised in Algeria. "Personally he's a kind of hero in terms of his humanistic approach and his willingness to step outside his comfort zone when he felt something was wrong.

"I think there's an autobiographical aspect to Daru because if Camus hadn't become a well-known writer and moved to France he probably would have been a teacher. When he won the Nobel prize for literature in 1957 he thanked his grade-school teacher, a man who inspired him to read literature and philosophy.

"In some ways Camus was a philosopher/teacher in the way he wrote, the example he set for people and the speeches he gave."

Far From Men is Mortensen's second film scored by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, after The Road. "They're really talented," he says. "I like the fact they didn't follow a cliched Middle-Eastern theme."

The outdoors-loving actor had no trouble with the film's physical challenges. After Hidalgo and the Cronenberg films he knows his way around horses and guns.

"Where the guys show up on horseback and I disarm him, that was something we were able to figure out very quickly," he says. Perfecting his French for his first French-speaking role, and learning Arabic, proved much harder.

"I speak far better French in the film than I normally do," he concedes. "I also had to change the accent I learnt when I was young. I had to learn Arabic from scratch and it helped I knew Spanish as there are certain sounds that are not so different. I went to Algeria before we started shooting and spent time there."

As a rare American who can speak a host of languages, Mortensen has to be commended for putting his talents to good use.

Born in the US to a Danish father and American mother, he spent his early years in Argentina. After his parents split when he was 11 he moved back to the US with his mother and siblings and lived near the French-Canadian border, where he learnt a bit of French.

Fastidious in preparing for his roles, he spoke Lakota the language of the Sioux tribes in Hidalgo and supposedly learnt orc for TLOR — or so says one internet report. "No," he chuckles. "I think I said something in dwarvish!"

In any case Mortensen considers himself a man of the world.

"I don't know if where you are born is where you belong. I was born in New York City but I belong in Argentina and Denmark and New Zealand and Russia and South Dakota (where he filmed Hidalgo). Home is not where you are, it's how you are."

Mortensen is content with his life in Madrid, where he also performs in the theatre. He likes that he is able to live away from the media glare, together with Gil. "Nobody really bothers us. We go about our business."

Will they work together again? "We've done a couple of movies and it could be fun to do a play or a movie together. She's a very talented actress."

© The West Australian. Images © One World Films.

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REFLECTING SKIN Remains A Wonder


Source: twitchfilm.com.
Found By: Kath


Thanks to Kath for the find.


Quote:

Seeing The Reflecting Skin for the first time, the 1990 film by Philip Ridley, starring Viggo Mortensen and Lindsay Duncan, one can't help but wonder how the hell the thing ever got made.

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© Miramax/Zenith.


by: Jason Gorber, Featured Critic



I'd previously never even heard of the flick, surely a testament to my lack of knowledge about late century UK/Canadian co-productions. The film would have come out when I was in High School, but it's hard to see that in the year of Home Alone, Dances With Wolves and Total Recall this being the work I'd seek out. Yet with that context the films it most closely echoes are those from only a few years earlier - the sundrenched fields of Days of Heaven providing a more rural backdrop for the abstruseness and surrealism of Blue Velvet.

Yet even contextualized like this the film feels like it's out of time. I can't imagine what the production meetings were like, who had the gall (or wisdom) to greenlight a film that on paper was never going to reach a wide audience. Yet the national broadcaster of England and the major funder of Canadian film put their faith in this project by the young director (Ridley was only 26 at the time), and the work would go on to premiere at TIFF and win numerous awards at Locarno, Sitges and other fests during its run.

Coming to the film as a fresh work now, with none of that baggage, one can easily see what all the fuss was about. Dick Pope's sumptuous photography is just as impactful as it must have been 25 years ago, the seas of wheat and rusted farm equipment providing a rich, rural visual palate against which the gothic tale is told.

The film starts with some childhood hooliganism, and the amphibial slaughter is certainly a unique way to introduce a character. The roundfaced Jeremy Cooper plays Seth Dove, and he's the center of the entire narrative. When he's not terrorising the neighbours Seth's hanging out in a barn with his friends or being scolded and harassed by his fragile and shrill mother. Only his father, the man who reeks of gasoline, seems to connect with the boy. Reading a pulpy magazine about vampires sets off in the child thoughts of the macabre that end up taking a tragic trajectory.

Spelling out the plot does the film some injustice, if only because the storyline seems completely secondary to the intent of creating mood. There's flurries of violence and argumentation, and a smattering of strange occurrences and stranger characters that all create an intoxicating brew. Yet I'm not sure we're meant to spend too much time really thinking about how it all comes together, or worrying about the backstory of the seemingly pederastic greasers riding in a black Cadillac. Instead, we linger on the beauty of a well-worn whaling harpoon, or marvel at the speckled hay dust dancing in front of the lens as warm sunlight drenches the inside of a barn.

This isn't a film that gives many answers, and when it does it underscores then with all the subtlety of a trainwreck. The closing scene in particular is pretty ridiculous, even if the recognition of the protagonist is perhaps worthy of some slightly less overt remonstration.

There is a blackly comic element to the film that at times feels intentional and at others not so much. Yet even at its most arch the film remains thoroughly enjoyable, like you're on some sort of maudlin ride where fish-smelling foetuses and parental immolation are all part of regular occurrence. If there's one metatextual disappointment it's that the relatively small audience for the film didn't result in a early-90s explosion of parents naming their daughters "Dolphin", but perhaps that's simply too much to ask for.

Viggo shows up well into the film, and we see an early example of his willingness to be both vulnerable and venomous. Naturally, too, we see his buttocks, surely at least part of the appeal for some audience members. It's a beautifully realized scene of vulnerability (echoing perhaps the famous photo of Lennon/Ono by Leibovitz) and it's one of the film's most striking moments.

Much of The Reflecting Skin may leave you shaking your head, yet this is by no means one of those "cult" films that's beloved for being kitschy. There's real artistry at work throughout much of it, and even if may of the performances rise to the level of operatic incredulity, there still very much is the heart of a compelling tale. There's a nastiness mixed with nostalgia that feels very inviting, and even obnoxious children being hellions can't spoil the fun.

Thanks to a new restoration the film's digital presentation looked extraordinary, showcasing Pope's photography to its fullest extent. As a strange slice of Canadiana it now feels like a true discovery, a kind of prairie surrealism that presages with the works of Guy Maddin, and illustrates how Gilliam's similarly themed (and set) Tideland failed to live up to the balance bewtween narrative thrust and incoherence that Ridley deftly navigates.

The Reflecting Skin
is a strange, at times wonderful film, one that leaves more questions open than answers. Its palate and performances collide in ways that seem unique decades on. While some of the moments are more risible than perhaps intended, as a complete work it's an astonishing slice of strange cinema. Like me you may shake your head and wonder how the hell this thing got made at the time that it was, but like me you'll be very glad that Ridley and co. managed to bring it all together.



© GLOBAL CINEMA/twitchfilm.com/globalvoices. Images © Miramax/Zenith.

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Far From Men


Source: Palace Cinemas..
Found By: Chrissie





Thanks to Chrissie for the find. Palace Films in Australia have announced details of special advance screenings on their official Far From Men site.


Quote:





OFFICIAL SELECTION – 2014 VENICE FILM FESTIVAL
OFFICIAL SELECTION – 2014 TORONTO FILM FESTIVAL
OFFICIAL SELECTION – 2014 BFI LONDON FILM FESTIVAL
OFFICIAL SELECTION – 2015 TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL

Featuring a career-best performance from the multi-talented Viggo Mortensen and a superb original soundtrack by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, FAR FROM MEN is a gripping tale of morality and friendship set during the Algerian War, against an imposing mountainous landscape.

The year is 1954, the war is beginning and village schoolteacher Daru (Mortensen), an ex-French Army soldier, is caught in the crossfire. Born in Algeria but Spanish by lineage, he's a man out of time and place, perceived as alien by both locals and colonisers alike. So when he reluctantly agrees to escort a dissident (rising star Reda Kateb, of A Prophet & Zero Dark Thirty) to a regional police station to face trial for murder, a series of incidents and revelations force the question of where Daru's loyalties truly lie.

Based on a story by Albert Camus, writer/director David Oelhoffen's masterful, breathtakingly-shot drama bears all the hallmarks of a classic frontier western, yet carries strong contemporary resonances. Widely acclaimed at the Venice Film Festival where it premiered in Official Competition, FAR FROM MEN is grand, big-screen adult entertainment at its finest.


Get more links HERE

© Palace Cinemas..

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Viggo in the New Zealand Herald


Source: The New Zealand Herald.
Found By: Chrissie

Thanks to Chrissie for the find. As a result of both Jauja and Far From Men screening at the New Zealand International Film Festival the following article has appeared in the New Zealand Herald.




Quote:

Not home on the range

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© 4L Productions.
by Helen Barlow

You wait for another Viggo Mortensen arthouse Western to come along and what do you know? Two show up at once.

The festival has a pair of such films featuring the actor formerly known as Aragorn, but while they may play like Westerns they are not cowboy movies.

Jauja, an Argentine-Danish-French production by Argentine director Lisandro Alonso, was a prize winner in Cannes last year; while David Oelhoffen's French film and Venice prize winner, Far From Men, is a version of Albert Camus' short story The Guest.

The latter film is set during the 1954 Algerian War and follows Daru, a reclusive French teacher, and Mohamed (Reda Kateb), a dissident Arabic villager accused of murder as they forge a special bond. In the midst of an icy winter they are forced to flee across the Atlas Mountains with horsemen on their trails.

"It's a very challenging story and I like a challenge," notes Mortensen, "Since his wife's death, Daru's living in the past, he's running away from life and Mohamed helps him realise that he doesn't want to do that anymore.

"I like this historical period in North Africa and this particular situation," he continues. "I also thought of other colonial situations, the conflict between other supposed civilising societies, whether it be in North America or in South America where I was raised, in Argentina. The consequences of that clash are felt for generations and generations. It takes a long time to get past the damage on both sides."

Perfecting his French for his first French-speaking role, and learning Arabic, proved much harder for the Spanish-resident multilingual actor.

"I speak far better French in the film than I normally do," he concedes. "I also had to change the accent I learned when I was young, which is more of a Quebec sound. I had to learn Arabic from scratch and it helped that I knew Spanish, as there are certain sounds that are not so different. I went to Algeria before we started shooting and spent some time there."

Jauja follows a father and daughter who venture from Denmark to Patagonia, where the girl elopes with an Argentinian only for Dad to track them through the wilderness.

Mortensen is back on horseback, roaming Argentina's rural north, where he holidayed as a child. "I copied my father, who speaks Spanish with a thick Danish accent, for the character. It was helpful that I had such strong connections with the culture, the language and the landscape."

Who: Viggo Mortensen
What: Jauja (screening July 25 and July 30); Far From Men (screening July 26 and 29)

© NZME Publishing Limited . Images © 4L Productions.


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Last edited: 28 July 2015 09:15:54