Monday, October 7, 2013

#VIFF2013 Days 8-10 Diary

A Place in Heaven
directed by Joseph Madmony
Israel
Another Israeli drama that delves into the rocky relationship between a father and son. It spans several decades and does well to capture the important moments, but can't quite escape the trap of films of this nature, that too much is being left out.
Youth
directed by Tom Shoval
Israel
A story of two teenage brothers (played impressively by non-professional real life siblings Eitan and David Cunio) who concoct a half baked plan to kidnap a rich schoolgirl for ransom to save their family from economic troubles. Serves as an amusing and sobering look at modern Israeli life.
A Touch of Sin
directed by Jia Zhangke
China
Winner of Best Screenplay at Cannes. A set of four very loosely connected scenarios ripped from recent headline news stories in China. Overall this a captivating depiction of the plight of the everyday citizen. It's also beautifully shot, in a variety of locations around the country. Unfortunately it starts with the most interesting protagonist and segment, and the rest never quite match the level of intensity of the first.
La jaula de oro
directed by Diego Quemada-Díez
Mexico
Winner of the A Certain Talent Prize at Cannes for the non-professional ensemble cast. Tells the familiar tale of a small group of youths making their way north to the USA in hopes of a better life. So not the most original story, but an involving and realistic one aided by the grainy film and non-professional cast which gives it a documentary feel.
Distant
directed by Yang Zhengfan
China
Very similar in style and execution to Benedek Fliegauf's Milky Way (2007), this is an experimental film comprised entirely of a series of voyeuristic long static shots seen from a remote vantage point with no dialogue or music. The framing and sequencing give an extraordinary meditative effect, and the spontaneity of the onscreen action enables the viewer to craft their own stories from all the details.
Breach in the Silence (Brecha en el silencio)
directed by Andrés & Luis Rodriguez
Venezuela
Venezuela's entry to the 2014 Oscars. The most visually arresting film I've seen at the festival so far. Former social workers and long time documentary filmmakers Andrés & Luis Rodriguez, have created a dark modern fairy tale that because of the subject matter becomes very frustrating to watch, but highly recommended for remarkable acting from first timer Vanessa Di Quattro, and for the surreal imagery and sound.
See You Never (Hasta Nunca)
directed by Mark Street
Uruguay
Part documentary part fiction set in Uruguay's capital city of Montevideo, framed around a radio show where callers dial in to share their secrets and stories. Never succeeds dramatically, and doesn't say anything particularly insightful, but gives a fascinating look at the city from a tourist or outsiders point of view. Highly recommended for those who love to people-watch.
Longing for the Rain
directed by Lina Yang
China
The story of a 30-year-old rich housewife who starts to get erotic visits from a ghost lover in her dreams. Sounds ridiculous, and it is for the most part, especially in the way the story plays out with its focus on various religious superstitions. However it's well acted, visually stylish, and it's a non exploitative and unique exploration of sexuality (the first I've ever seen) told from a Chinese woman's perspective.
Borgman
directed by Alex van Warmerdam
Netherlands
A hugely enjoyable dark comedy that plays like a twisted Dutch version of Down in Out in Beverly Hills. Its strange and illogical narrative falters under close scrutiny, but the firm handed direction and the ominous mood created make up for any plot holes that may exist. Jan Bijvoet plays the title character with irresistible charisma.
Like Father Like Son
directed by Hirokazu Koreeda
Japan
Winner of the Jury Prize at Cannes. Koreeda in his usual fashion, handles the story with a light and carefully paced direction. He's able to wring profound amounts of emotion from the tiniest of scenes or gestures, and his ability to direct young children is matched by no other. Though the outcome of this story seems a bit obvious and inevitable from the start.
Anatomy of a Paperclip
directed by Ikeda Akira
Japan
Winner of the 2013 VIFF Dragons and Tigers Award. A very odd and highly repetitive surrealistic tale set in a handmade paperclip factory. Very funny in moments but definitely requires a patient and open minded viewer to handle its strange rhythms. There were plenty of walkouts at the encore screening.
Code Black
directed by Ryan McGarry
USA
Winner of Best Documentary at the Los Angeles Film Festival. Gives an unflinching first hand look inside LA County Hospital's emergency room. Works best when depicting the chaos and camaraderie that exists in one of the world's busiest hospitals, less so when it turns to politics, health care reform, and the bureaucracy.
Vic + Flo Saw a Bear (Vic+Flo ont vu un ours)
directed by Denis Côté
Canada
Winner of the Alfred Bauer Award for innovation at Berlin 2013. Côté has definitely raised the creative bar with this unique film that can't really be categorized, and it's best seen without knowing the reasons why it is so original and innovative. Also, Pierrette Robitaille (known mainly in Quebec for appearing in silly comedies) is amazing here in a role that obliterates her typecast.
Big Bad Wolves
directed by Aharon Keshales & Navot Papushado
Israel
A suspenseful dark thriller about a rogue cop and a vengeful father who get in each others way while tracking down a suspected serial child killer. Feels in a way like the recent hyper violent and morally ambiguous films from South Korea. The screenplay keeps the audience guessing until the end, at the same time prevents things from getting too bleak with some very humorous twists. All three leads are excellent as well in this all around entertaining and thought provoking thrill ride. The only annoyance is the very generic sounding score.

6 comments:

Bonjour Tristesse said...

I really want to see "Like Father, Like Son" I love what I've seen from Koreeda so far as I also want to see "A Touch of Sin".

Bonjour Tristesse said...

A lot of films you've been watching at the festival! Of these, I'm most interested in Borgman, because I heard it was Lynch meets Haneke. That's encouraging you say it's hugely enjoyable.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

A few of the Israeli films caught my attention, esp. Youth and A Place in Heaven. Great coverage as always Bonjour!

Bonjour Tristesse said...

I think you'll be impressed by both.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

Yeah the scheduling this year has been friendlier to me. That's an interesting but not totally accurate description of Borgman, it's a little surreal and has a touch of cruelty, but it's a lot funnier than anything from either of those two director's.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

Like Father, Like Son is packed so full of emotion that Kore-eda is so skilled at capturing that no matter how much I resisted crying, I ended up in tears. It earned an ovation from the crowd and it was richly deserved.

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