Rakkautta & Anarkiaa 2017 – part II


Day 2. Only two films, but worth the while.

9 Fingers [2017]


The film tells the story of Magloira (Paul Hamy), a seemingly innocent man, who first stumbles upon a dying man and receives something, is then caught by a gang of criminals, is involved in a heist gone wrong, and escapes with the gang onto a cargo ship on its way to Nowhereland.

Well, tells the story is maybe saying too much, since this is a film that borders on the definition of art film. The film is more about atmosphere, images, sunglasses in dark indoors, poetry. There is structure and plot, although neither seems to point anywhere, so it can certainly be viewed as a more traditional film, but you likely won’t get much out of it that way. If you can sit back and enjoy the ride, this gives you a lot.

Everything seems to be going to hell slowly, but the journey sure is enjoyable.

  • Director: F. J. Ossang
  • Original Title: 9 doigts
  • Watched on: 19th Sep 2017
  • Watched at: Kinopalatsi 8
  • 4/5

Ismael’s Ghosts [2017]


The film tells the story of Ismael (Mathieu Amalric), a movie director, who is living with his lover Sylvia (Charlotte Gainsbourg) in the south of France. He is filming a movie about a globe hopping spy Dédalus (could be Ivan Dédalus – Amalric’s character’s brother from Desplechin’s previous film, My Golden Days [2015]). His wife, Carlotta (Marion Cotillard), vanished twenty years earlier. She returns and upends Ismael’s and Sylvia’s life. The film production has its problems, Sylvia vanishes, most of the film happens in between and is about adjusting to the new situation.

In a very Desplechinian way, there’s bitterness, there’s tranquility, there’s elegance in accepting things, there’s people coming into and vanishing from lives. There’s confrontations about past injustices and new insults, there’s emotions that threaten to overwhelm.

I got hooked into all of this with A Christmas Tale [2008]. Since then I’ve seen the aforementioned My Golden Days and now this. They all repeat this same pattern of bitter sweet feeling and acceptance of them spilling over and handling them in sometimes chaotic and eventually elegant ways.

This time around though, it feels like Desplechin has fallen in love with his chaotic style a bit too much and he doesn’t really care to tone down his ideas anymore. The chaos spills over, the ideas are less refined, the dialogue isn’t intelligent anymore, the film production feels completely out of place and doesn’t add anything to the whole.

I still liked this, but I have a feeling that, unless someone reins Desplechin’s self indulgence in a bit, the next one isn’t going to be worth seeing anymore. Maybe I’ll backtrack from A Christmas Tale into his earlier films, when I get the feeling for more of Desplechin’s, at best, lovely, reckless and bittersweet relationships.

  • Director: Arnaud Desplechin
  • Original Title: Les fantômes d’Ismaël
  • Watched on: 19th Sep 2017
  • Watched at: Kinopalatsi 9
  • 3/5

Rakkautta & Anarkiaa 2016 – part II


Second day at the festival after one rest day.

Aloys [2016]


Another one of those weird films to fill out my schedule. Hadn’t heard of the director, Tobias Nölle, previously, but since this is his first feature film, no wonder.

The story tells about Aloys Adorn (played by Georg Friedrich), a reclusive private detective, who prefers to not meet with people at all. He conducts his business over the phone and films everything, whether targets on the job, or just random events during his daily life. He spends his days on the job and at home watching his endless archive of film he has shot. Also, drinking.

One day he passes out drunk on a bus, and his camera and a case full of films get stolen. This is already disturbing enough, but he starts receiving notes from the thief (played by Tilde von Overbeck), who threatens to reveal Aloys’ films to the world. With the threat the thief manages to lure Aloys into a game of imagination, where the thief tries to pull Aloys out into the world at least in Aloys’ imagination. The game goes on for a while and Aloys is completely pulled into it even generating an infatuation towards the thief, which is too much for the thief.

The plot sounds interesting, but the film fails at pacing. Things mostly develop very slowly, which can be a good thing in capable hands, but Aloys just is not interesting. There’s no inner world to develop in those quiet shots, no charisma to build – Aloys has neither – so it’s just boring. Then occasionally the films shifts a few gears too many and things happen that… you just can’t buy into.

Pacing isn’t the only problem though – the film relies on this character that basically has no inner world or charisma and then it makes you try to watch the world through his eyes. This is nicely supported by camera work and mise-en-scéne, but something is missing. It all adds up to a very bleak film that has problems keeping the viewer attached to itself. I think someone like Cronenberg or Haneke could’ve built a masterpiece out of this setup.

Despite the shortcomings of the film, it has its moments and I enjoyed my time with it.

  • Director: Tobias Nölle
  • Watched on: 18th Sep 2016
  • Watched at: Orion
  • 3/5

Francofonia [2015]


A film by the legendary Russian director Aleksandr Sokurov. I don’t think I’ve seen anything by him, although he’s been a staple of the festival for a long time and working as a director for even longer.

The film is an essay about Louvre and the near destruction it and the art in its collections faced during the German occupation in WWII. Well, that is the framing – more essentially the film is a rumination on the importance of art as the vessel for preserving human achievement from generation to generation, on how fragile that vessel is, on how art is the most important of all human achievements, and how the people, who’ve sacrificed to save art, are the true heroes of all ages.

I’m always interested in the background for art. Often a piece of art without any context is quite bland – it might be masterful, but seeing it provides no additional elation besides the appreciation of the skill it took to bring the piece to life. Many times it feels like the reason the piece was made, the story of birthing it, the conditions it was made under, the artists intention and place in life – all of these details of the background are more interesting and bring the piece itself to life. Gaining additional insight into all of that is always interesting.

Sokurov’s thoughts don’t fail on this front. Although he proceeds through the film in a rambling manner jumping between places and times quite freely and not bothering with making his thoughts approachable, he provides ample bits of interesting trivia. Those alone would make the film worth seeing, but he also manages to construct a humane defense for art in general. Coming out, I felt strengthened in my belief that there is no endeavor more important than art.

The film also contains gimmickry and self-indulgent ramblings that lead nowhere. This is most likely intentional, since I expect this to be half an exercise to organize his own thoughts on the matter. A sort of journal entry that maybe will end up as a thought piece in some magazine later on, but is currently just an unorganized collection of thoughts mostly on one topic.

Very much recommended, if you share the belief that art is important.

  • Director: Aleksandr Sokurov
  • Watched on: 18th Sep 2016
  • Watched at: Orion
  • 3.5/5

My Golden Days [2015]


I’ve seen A Christmas Tale [2008] by Arnaud Desplechin previously and loved it. The film recounts the story of one family’s one Christmas. In that film Desplechin shows us a family that is smart and well off, but snarky and with dark humane depths. He shows people, who are smart but struggle, who are successful but make mistakes, who are cultured but fragile – people, who are lovable and feel like life, despite being upper class people often described with less warmth. For me, that is the definitive Christmas film. It tells about a family that stays together despite all the reasons not to. It is bitter and sweet and honest.

With this background I jumped at the chance to see another Desplechin film. This one is framed in a story about Paul Dédalus (played by Quentin Dolmaire and Mathieu Amalric as the young and old Paul respectively) being apprehended by French officials upon him returning to France. Apparently there’s another Paul Dédalus somewhere and foul play is suspected. From there the film dives into Paul reminiscing about the formative events in his life. There’s three memories of which the first is a quick glance into tumultuous pre-teen years, where Paul threatened her mother with a kitchen knife, the second is about a field trip to Minsk, when Paul “lost” his passport to a jewish family in order to help them escape the USSR, which is also the reason Paul is now questioned, and the third is about the love of Paul’s life during his teens and early adult years. Everything else is just setup and framing for the love story, the golden days of the English title of the film.

Paul was a fragile and very romantic youth and he can’t help but still view his younger self with immense affection. Although he has grown up and generated the usual adult protective shell, underneath, he’s still the teen boy, who fell in love and felt betrayed with the strength only the people still learning to live with their feelings can. He’s the kind of person, who occasionally cries himself to sleep at night, because he can’t reach those depths of feeling anymore. Despite still feeling hurt and angry about how things went, he still yearns for those times with warmth.

The love story itself, between Paul and Esther (played by Lou Roy-Lecollinet) is one of sunshine, bitterness and impossibility. Youthful follies based on false expectations and on the sweetness of bitter disappointment. Except that at some point, the disappointment is only bitter and the damage has been done and you wake up realizing that you are mortal and everything is not possible.

The story is encased in everything that I felt during my teenage years. This is obviously the highlights reel of a life made more interesting for the silver screen, but I could’ve been that boy. I don’t think I am anymore, I don’t think I have such blindness towards the youthful me, but then again, I cried a lot during the film, since it connects on so many levels to some bitter memories I have.

If you didn’t already get it, I consider this a masterpiece. There are just a few tiny structural weaknesses, but those are inconsequential. Desplechin has a way of reaching into things that are bitter and sweet that just twists my soul with absolute warmth and nostalgia.

  • Director: Arnaud Desplechin
  • Original Title: Trois souvenirs de ma jeunesse
  • Watched on: 18th Sep 2016
  • Watched at: Korjaamo Kino
  • 5/5

Truman [2015]


The final step of my festival scheduling process is to fill out the blanks. If there are days, when I’m going to see just one film or there’s a convenient spot between a few already chosen films, I look through the open spots and figure out some film to see in that spot. This was one of those filler movies. Boy, am I glad I chose this one.

The film is a story of two childhood friends meeting up for the first time since forever as old men. There probably were the usual promises of being friends forever no matter what happens in their lives, but as is the case usually, life intervenes. One has remained a successful actor in his childhood neighborhood, while the other has moved all the way to Canada. Julián (played by Ricardo Darín) is dying of cancer, when Tomás (played by Javier Cámara) comes to visit.

The film proceeds to present some too convenient situations that reestablish old childhood bonds and allows the protagonists to figure out, how to be the one, who accepts his friend’s death gracefully and on the other hand, how to die gracefully. On a wider scale, it may be about those eternal bonds, about male friendship forged in the fires of teenage years, but on a smaller scale, it is about telling a story that is filled with a kind of nostalgia for the future – this is the way that those childhood friendships should be fulfilled in the end, this is how we should be allowed to die, everything should be ok in the end.

I just cried and cried during the film at the grace and the moments, when grace failed, but it was still justified. I cried at the friendship and the final gesture with the dog. I cried at pretty much everything. I slightly cringed at the way everything had been built way too conveniently, but then again, if there’s story like this, it will seem way too convenient.

  • Director: Cesc Gay
  • Watched on: 18th Sep 2016
  • Watched at: Kinopalatsi 9
  • 4.5/5

The Clan [2015]


This was chosen for the premise – the Puccio clan was one of the right wing death squads that operated during the Argentine state sponsored terror years that attempted to purge left wing supporters from the country. The thing that made the Puccio clan exceptional, was that they continued operating after the democratic government had been restored and after processes to compensate victims of the terror had started. At the point democracy was restored, the Puccios obviously lost their main source of income, so they kept at the kidnapping business.

The film tells the story. A successful model family with store keeper father devoted to his kids, an arts teacher mother, who is a home keeping wizard on par with Martha Stewart, and five kids, who are well behaved and liked with promising futures ahead of them.

Except that they kidnapped people, on occasion tortured them slightly, and once ransom had been paid, mostly killed the ransomed people in order to avoid gathering of any sort of evidence.

The film keeps very strictly to what is known, probably just building some details to fill in the day to day life of them. It also presents everything in a very calm and everyday manner. This is the humdrum of their life. Breakfast, homework, falling for a girl, football practice, kidnapping, rinse and repeat.

I find it difficult to say an opinion about the film. I like it. It’s interesting. Let’s go with that.

  • Director: Pablo Trapero
  • Original Title: El Clan
  • Watched on: 18th Sep 2016
  • Watched at: Kinopalatsi 1
  • 3.5/5

That was the first Sunday (I missed the closing Sunday).

I felt elated. Although the day ended on a film that doesn’t really lift your spirits, it was a good film. My Golden Days and Truman were very solid efforts, while Aloys played a weird little interesting game that could’ve been gold in more capable hands, and Francofonia was a reminder of the importance of art, which is never bad.