As Cool As A Fruitstand

…and maybe as strange. A movie blog.

IFFR Preview #1

Posted by Hedwig on January 13, 2008

Note: this started out as just me taking notes, making sure I had something to refer to once I needed to really write about these films. Then I figured, I might as well post what I wrote here. Regular updates and all. Some of these films (Du Levande & Mio Fratello è figlio unico) are even going to get small releases in the Netherlands.

Wonderful Town (Aditya Assarat, 2008, Thailand, Tiger Awards Competition) is about the tsunami, I suppose, in some vague way, like pretty much everything in this movie is vague, from the attraction between the two main characters to the motive behind the act of violence that suddenly, incomprehensibly, ends it. There’s beautiful images here, sure, but I can barely remember anything specific. Unless you really, really enjoy Asian flicks in which nothing much happens, I’d skip this one.

Du Levande/You the Living (Roy Andersson, 2007, Sweden) on the other hand, I can heartily recommend, even if I couldn’t possibly give a summary. It consists of fifty or so vignettes, sometimes loosely connected to each other, more often not. It’s about “the Living” in the greatest sense of the world: the happy, the sad, the kind, the mean, the dreamers and the desperate ones. It’s poignant, it’s funny, and even if I don’t remember half the scenes, I wasn’t bored for a second. The music is great, and the ending is perfect. It’s the perfect proof that a movie can be artsy and experimental without being inaccessible.

It’s too bad The Best of Times (Svetlana Proskurina, 2008, Russia) wants to be so deep. Or maybe it’s not deep enough, I’m not sure. Theme’s battle with each other to get noticed, with many images of industrialization, many shots and references to water, an obsession with aging, the different people we are during our life, and so on. Unfortunately, all the posturing takes away from the poorly motivated and illustrated story about two girls in love with the same guy. It managed to get under my skin, even giving me half a panic attack about growing old and being alone, but at the same time I didn’t care about what happened to the characters. Proskurina (a “filmmaker in focus” this year) obviously knows the craft of directing and there are some memorable shots, but this is one of the most unpleasant films I’ve seen in a while.

Mio fratello è figlio unico/My Brother is an Only Child (Luchetti, 2007, Italy) is rather the opposite: it pulls you in with its characters, and even gives a bit of historical perspective and insight on the sly. Accio (which apparently is a nasty nickname) is our narrator, a very serious, intense boy. He goes to seminary first. Then, finding them not strict enough, he becomes a fascist. His brother, older, more charismatic, and much more fun-loving, is an active communist. They fall for the same girl, of course. It’s familiar territory for the writers, who also wrote La Meglio Gioventù (which I’m afraid I still haven’t caught up with). But after the stark, anguish-filled The Best of Times, I loved how light it treaded, and that it manage to make you feel for all the characters, despite some broad characterizations. It’s a movie where an older brother gives a picture of a movie star to his younger brother to corrupt him – and it works.

I also saw some shorts. Most of them I can’t recommend. One of them wasn’t just non-narrative, but it wasn’t even figurative: just head-ache (and probably epilepsy) inducing quickly moving flecks. For 19 friggin’ minutes. Good thing I needed a nap around that time. The one short that stayed with me was actually not short at all (41 minutes), and called Hemel Boven Holland (Rolf van Eijk, 2008, Holland). It’s about the murder of Theo van Gogh, focusing on his killer, Mohammed Bouyeri. A la Memento, it’s about 20 uncut scenes in reverse order, starting with shots in the dark and ending much earlier, back when Mohammed didn’t have a beard yet and was just a slightly strange young guy, hanging with his friends. It’s nothing revolutionary, but it’s interesting, and refreshingly lacking in sensationalism.

10 days to kick-off now. I’m really looking forward to it.

Previously written-about films that will also play at the festival

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2 Responses to “IFFR Preview #1”

  1. Kaj said

    I think I might check out Du Levande, Mio fratello è figlio unico and Hemel Boven Holland, I like what you’re saying about them. Thanks for the tips.

  2. I’m thrilled to see someone else who loved “You, The Living”! It was my favourite filmgoing experience of all 2007 when I saw it at the Toronto Film Festival. I would’ve sat down and watched it all over again right away if I could.

    I wrote about it here.

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