Rakkautta & Anarkiaa 2016 – part IV

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My final day at the festival. The festival itself ended a day later and I thought about attending, but juggling work, family and the festival takes its toll, so I’m happy in the end that I didn’t.

Endless Poetry [2016]

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Another episode in Jodorowsky’s autobiographical film series about coming to terms with his past. I haven’t seen any of the early Jodorowsky films that enjoy immense cult fame, but I’ve read his Incal comics and seen the earlier film in the series, The Dance of Reality [2013]. Based on these, Jodorowsky is a poet, who doesn’t see the world as the rest of us. I just couldn’t skip the opportunity of seeing this.

This episode tells of Jodorowsky’s as a young adult. Having left home, he got into some artistic circles that at the time were just a bunch of young Chilean artists, but turned out to become the monsters of Chilean literature and arts. Jodorowsky throws away the chains of his past life and explores the current life in order to get rid of any restraints whatsoever. He frees himself artistically and enjoys life in this group of like-minded beings.

Jodorowsky sees the world through a lens of metaphor and symbols. What makes his films unique is that he has a way of embedding those elements into his films without making them unapproachable. He also manages to attach those elements into humanity – he gives the scenes a primal power deeply rooted in the human experience. This is what makes the films for me – they are essentially an exploration into what it is to be a human and what a human can be as an artist.

Jodorowsky explores the pretty and the ugly, the noble and the base and always does it with grace and a sharp eye to human nature. His shots are immaculately beautiful and often quite surprising. He is a unique artist and I’m extremely happy that he is active in film making again.

  • Director: Alejandro Jodorowsky
  • Original Title: Poesía sin fin
  • Watched on: 24th Sep 2016
  • Watched at: Savoy
  • 4.5/5

Love & Peace [2015]

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Sion Sono has been a constant festival favorite at Rakkautta ja Anarkiaa. Thus far I’ve missed his films, but this seemed like a good option to start… Boy was I wrong.

I hope this is not representative of Sono’s work, since I can’t find a good thing to say about it. A loser salary man buys himself a turtle pet and somehow gains magical superstar capabilities and becomes a pop icon. Somewhere there’s a drunk Santa Claus living in the sewers with abandoned toys – his day job, when it’s not Christmas is to provide shelter for the abandoned toys. The turtle goes back and forth between Santa Claus and the salary man and is a conduit for the powers. There’s obviously an office worker, who hides her beauty and was always secretly in love with the loser…

This aims for some kind of Happiness of the Katakuris weirdness, but instead of being delightful and surprising, is just painful to watch.

  • Director: Sion Sono
  • Original Title: Rabu & Pîsu
  • Watched on: 24th Sep 2016
  • Watched at: Andorra
  • 1.5/5

The Lure [2015]

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I’m not sure, if this was a filler pick, or if I was genuinely interested in the appraisal heaped on the film in the festival catalog, but I’m sorry I picked this.

A story about vampire mermaid human shapeshifters, who… I don’t know. I don’t know, what they are doing or why. And I don’t care. I didn’t think I could be so bored by a film that has two beautiful young women naked a lot of the time. There’s a night club and they become performers there and there’s some men they lure in to feed on and someone falls in love and is betrayed and someone takes revenge and all that jazz.

There is not a single interesting shot. There is no plot to speak of. There’s just a whole lot of film spent on an absolutely worthless piece of a turd.

  • Director: Agnieszka Smoczynska
  • Original Title: Córki dancingu
  • Watched on: 24th Sep 2016
  • Watched at: Korjaamo Kulmasali
  • 0.5/5

The Handmaiden [2016]

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This is a bit of digression, but…

Around the year 2000 I started to become a bit bored by the mainstream films I was seeing at the local multiplexes. I figured that there must be more to film than this – an endless repetition of the dozen or so stories that Hollywood thinks are bankable. There was a masterpiece every now and then, but mostly it was just bubblegum. I became aware of the Rakkautta ja Anarkiaa film festival around those times, but there were at least two years, when I missed it – noticed the posters just when the festival had ended or something… Then one year I noticed them, when it was starting in a few days. I walked into the ticket office without a second thought, talked with the sales person for a moment and ended up buying the 11 film ticket package with the catalog. I sat down there and browsed the catalog for over an hour picking those 11 films, went back to the counter, swapped the package to tickets for individual films and couldn’t wait for the few days to pass… My first film in the festival was Chan-wook Park’s Oldboy [2003] and I never looked back. I cried, when I came out of the film and realized, that there’s this whole wonderful world of film, where imagination and surprise still exist. Besides the festival, I started digging into this whole thing called critically acclaimed film and the gems I’ve discovered are an endless wonder to me.

So yeah, Park hasn’t been up to the same level in all his films since, but I still have a tender spot in my heart for him, so I was happy to go see The Handmaiden.

It’s a period piece set in a Korean upper class family, where everything is not what it seems. Besides being a period piece, it’s a bait and switch story, where you see the story in three parts – every part from a different angle and each time a different layer of the cons being played left and right is revealed.

The story is interesting enough and the convenient turns of events and the few blind spots that the director hopes the viewer won’t notice aren’t too prominent. The structure is very sound and holds a few twists that will genuinely surprise even by the time you expect them.

In the end, it is still a film laced with some nice dresses and manors, some structural ingenuity and a few nice plot twists. The whole is built so nicely that I enjoyed my time a lot, but it is still just an entertaining movie.

  • Director: Chan-wook Park
  • Original Title: Ah-ga-ssi
  • Watched on: 24th Sep 2016
  • Watched at: Korjaamo Kulmasali
  • 3.5/5

There’s a tradition of a few piss poor films in each instance of the festival and I was already thinking I’d avoided them, but my final day proved me wrong. Love & Peace and The Lure were just wasted hours and I considered leaving the theaters more than once. Luckily, Jodorowsky’s autobiographical film series continues to be marvelous and The Handmaiden turned out to be one of Park’s stronger pieces.

What about the festival as a whole? I can’t attend as fully as I’d like, so I missing some of the atmosphere, but in general it was a bit of a let down. I didn’t see the festival trailer, I thought the theaters were emptier than usual, there were less familiar faces around, the replacement theaters were mostly bad… Still, wouldn’t miss this for the world, for I again saw some of the best films of the year and counting in the turds, I still saw a better set of films than I could find in the multiplexes in an average year.

It took me so long to write these pieces that only 7 months to go until the next installment. Can’t wait.

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