Tuesday, 26 October 2010

LFF Notes #2

Portrait of the Fighter as a Young Man

As films like Mr Lazarescu, Tales from the Golden Age and 4 months, 3 weeks have shown, the scars of the twentieth century have yet to properly heel in Romania, with filmmakers persistent in their surveying of the country’s murky recent history; as well as the bureaucratic hang-ups of the post-Communist era. Constantin Popescu (who also contributed to Golden Age) turns even more retrograde in Portrait of the Fighter, taking us back to the pre- Ceauşescu period following WW2, as Partisan fighters courageously (if futilely) held out as the Soviets gained a stranglehold on Eastern Europe. The grim episodic narrative effectively conveys the thanklessly anti-romantic nature of guerrilla fighting, as the fighters trudge through monotonous landscapes, under the constant threat of ambush. This slightly abridged version of the film that premiered in Berlin feels endless enough as it is, but remains horribly gripping throughout. Those with a better grasp of European history than I may well be troubled by the film’s political intentions (brushing aside the potentially fascist leanings of many of the Partisan groups), but as a docu-drama of a horrific past, the film is chillingly effectual.

Young Girls in Black

The titular heroines of Jean-Paul Civeyrac‘s polished Young Girls in Black have all the glum sullenness of your classical emo, but this being France it’s Heinrick von Kleist rather than Avril Lavigne that stir their dark passions. The films highly aestheticised take on adolescent suicide is questionable at best, and, despite exceptional performances (especially from the two young female leads) and studied technique, it remains stubbornly, and perversely, morbid.

Oki’s Movie

Hong’s second film of 2010 marks a return to structural concerns of his earlier works, and perhaps as such loses some of the free-wheeling humour that has categorised the more recent films. That said, it does include one of the Korean’s most awkwardly funny scenes when a directors Q and A turns into a personal attack. Sectioned into four more-or-less divisible parts, the film’s opening and closing entries are classic Hong. Further viewings needed.

Winter Vacation

Featuring one of the oddest soundscapes to grace the festival for some time, this Locarno prize winner was charmingly idiosyncratic but relentless in its critique of China’s supposed economic miracle. It probably didn’t need all of its 91 minutes to convey its thinly veiled message, but the gags come thick (if not exactly fast..)

Thomas Mao

Now this is an odd one. Beginning as a sort of intercontinental bromance, between a rural Chinese Basil Faulty-type guesthouse owner and his German uber-mench patron (neither of whom speak the other’s language), the film is witty enough as a culture-clash comedy of apparently limited ambition...Then the flying saucers arrive, and the spectral samurais (all disarmingly rendered in no-tech CGI) and we begin to discover that we may well be watching some kind of fine art prank (or are we?) Curious.

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