Rakkautta & Anarkiaa 2017 – part IV

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Last day – 3 more films.

David Lynch: The Art Life [2016]

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A documentary about Lynch’s creative career leading up to his first feature film, Eraserhead. So the important point for possible viewers here is, it’s not about his films, it’s about everything leading up to them. Lynch occupies the screen almost for the entire film and he’s pretty much the only person with a voice in the film, so the point of view is limited to him and him alone. The persona is certainly interesting, so go for it, if Lynch interests you.

  • Directors: Rick Barnes, Olivia Neergaard-Holm, John Nguyen
  • Watched on: 24th Sep 2017
  • Watched at: Savoy
  • 3/5

Let the Sunshine In [2017]

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Isabelle (Juliette Binoche) is a recently divorced artist, who goes on a journey to find herself. The journey consists mostly of potential suitors that allow Isabelle to learn about herself – at least to the extent of what not to do. The journey is incomplete, when the film ends – there’s no answers here – but maybe that’s the point: no journey is ever complete.

Binoche plays Isabelle magnificently going through all the mixed emotions, turning on a dime, when a guy turns sour. There’s desperation, openness, joy, remorse, and something that keeps her going on time and time again.

Isabelle is not a perfect and strong character – not a poster girl for women to be strong. She is a complete character with more flaws than strengths – a poster girl for allowing women to appear on screen or anywhere as themselves. It’s not a popular choice to define a woman through her failure to find a man and make the woman make the same definition on screen. But the film makes no excuses about Isabelle being perfect, she just is her full self on screen without apology, and there’s major strength in that.

The story has Isabelle engaging in short encounters with many men. She goes in with an open heart and an open mind and is quick to discard the ones that don’t provide, what she wants, that is, all of them. She has an undeniable desperation to her about finding a relationship that sticks. Most of the dialogue without the romantic partners are about them and their failures. There’s even a scene with Isabelle going to a psychic to have council about her love life.

Despite all the good, I didn’t like this film. Something about Isabelle rubs me the wrong way and I found myself wanting the film to end to get away from it.

  • Director: Claire Denis
  • Original Title: Un beau soleil intérieur
  • Watched on: 24th Sep 2017
  • Watched at: Savoy
  • 2/5

The Square [2017]

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The film revolves around Christian (Claes Bang), the artistic director of a highly successful modern art museum.

The displays in the museum consist only of modern art at its worst – things that need academic explanation that nobody outside the art academia understand. There might occasionally be an actual idea somewhere, but everything is conceptualized to the point, where there’s no power left, and the sterile presentation in the museum rips the remnants away and leaves you with pieces to gawk at with the feeling of, how can anyone call this art?

Christian is a self centered, egoistic alpha male, who seems to believe that he has actually earned all that he has achieved and that he should be able to get away with anything due to his position. He is charming and stylish, but in a rehearsed and reserved manner. He has a feeling of entitlement – nothing bad should ever happen to him and nobody should ever confront him due to his achievements.

Early in the film, Christian’s phone and wallet are stolen. His feeling of entitlement drives him into a rage about it and he goes on a hunt to retrieve the phone. Everything starts with that small crack and slowly spreads and multiplies into a scandal, that eventually pulls away the curtain to reveal that both Christian and modern art are emperors without any clothes.

Östlund builds every scene into an individual tableau of social awkwardness. Each one would function as a short film by itself. He manages to keep the strings in his hands though, and builds a coherent whole, that pulls down the facades of western life and reveals hollow emptiness beneath it all.

  • Director: Ruben Östlund
  • Watched on: 24th Sep 2017
  • Watched at: Savoy
  • 4/5
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Rakkautta & Anarkiaa 2017 – part III

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Day 3. Again, 2 films.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer [2017]

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Steven Murphy is a successful cardiac surgeon, who has a successful optometrist wife Anna (Nicole Kidman), two beautiful kids and a bigger than average McMansion in the suburbs. Steven also has an acquaintance, Martin, who is a teenage boy with whom Steven occasionally meets. They have long talks and Steven usually presents some gifts to Martin. It is revealed that Steven was involved in a surgical operation that left Martin’s father dead. Steven is feeling obviously guilty (thus the gifts) and Martin is obviously bitter (thus the increasing demands of time and gifts). This slowly turns into a nightmare, when Martin threatens the life of one of the Murphy kids and demands a sacrifice from Steven.

Yorgos Lanthimos’ style has always been dead pan delivery, extremely reserved characters and atmosphere, surprising, insightful jokes that make you feel guilty for laughing at them. This film has all of that. Previously his subject matter has sharper and more fresh, but now he turns to well trodden paths of a white upper middle class family encountering a menace they are unable to cope with, since they are so stuck on their polite and mannered ways.

Dogtooth [2009] felt raw, but Lanthimos’ style was so new that it was also fresh. The Lobster [2015] was his breakthrough film. The rawness was gone and the style was polished to a very keen edge. The subject was so weird, that it didn’t carry the whole length of the film though. Here, Lanthimos’ resorts to a diluted subject that seems to somewhat dilute his style as well. He has yet to find a combination, where his style and the subject matter are in perfect balance. He has yet to fail in his films either.

Regardless, he is apt at using his specific style to distance the viewer in a Brechtian manner and using the gained attention to point out social conventions that are wrong, when examined carefully. He is skilled at creating surprising and effective humor out of this without sacrificing the importance of the point he is making. His films are very much worth the while.

  • Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
  • Watched on: 21st Sep 2017
  • Watched at: Savoy
  • 4/5

Double Lover [2017]

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Chloé (Marine Vacth) is a 25-year-old woman living a comfortable life with one problem – she has stomach pains that have no physical cause. Thus she begins therapy and eventually a relationship with Paul (Jérémie Renier). Things are thrown into chaos, when Chloé meets a mysterious man, Louis (Renier again), who is a spitting image of Paul and also a therapist. From there on end things fall into a psycho-sexual genre piece, where reality is a fluid concept.

From what I’ve seen, Ozon’s films often present an ambiguous reality. He uses that to present different options, interpretations, eventualities. He is also known for an impeccable style, where sexual tension is always present and often menacing. This is no different.

The film is a nifty genre piece never missing a step as far as style goes, but never rising above its premise.

  • Director: François Ozon
  • Original Title: L’amant double
  • Watched on: 21st Sep 2017
  • Watched at: Savoy
  • 3/5

Rakkautta & Anarkiaa 2017 – part II

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

9 Fingers [2017]

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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]

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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 2017 – part I

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As per my usual festival postings, I’ve divided these posts according to my day of attendance. This year I managed to attend on 4 days for a total of 11 films. My haul was excellent overall, with only a couple of mediocre films and no actually bad films.

Personal Shopper [2016]

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The film tells a story of a personal assistant – mostly shopper – Maureen (Kristen Stewart), who loathes her client, a fashion superstar Kyra. It also tells the story of a Maureen the medium, who is looking for a sign of her dead twin brother Lewis, who died of a heart condition that affects Maureen also. Maureen and Lewis had a deal that whoever goes first gives a sign to the one left behind. There are signs, but the movie leaves answers about the supernatural bits intentionally unclear.

The film blurs the line between the realistic and the supernatural. Some events are clearly supernatural, but they are not given an explanation. Some events look at first like they might be supernatural, but turn out to be natural, and then are mixed up with more supernatural events again. And the final resolution, Maureen making contact with something and finally getting some answers, eventually leaves everything even more open for interpretation.

There are two things I would like to point out about the film.

First of all, it plays with our genre expectations. The whole film is shot in a very realistic manner, which plays havoc with our expected interpretations of events, when the supernatural enters the picture without the usual genre trappings.

Second, and I never thought I would utter this out loud, Kristen Stewart, who occupies almost every shot of the film, is absolutely magnificent. Most of the time she is apathetic bordering on depressed – all ennui and detachment – but there are scenes, where she is touched one way or the other, and you buy it every time. Truly a magnificent performance.

  • Director: Olivier Assayas
  • Watched on: 16th Sep 2017
  • Watched at: Kinopalatsi 2
  • 4.5/5

On the Beach at Night Alone [2017]

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The film is divided into two halves that seem to depict two possible outcomes of a painful personal event. Young-hee (Kim Min-hee) is an actress, whose career is in decline, and who has just had an affair with a married film director, who is now somewhere else. In the first half of the film, it seems like Young-hee has escaped the scandal to Hamburg. She is living with a friend there, who doesn’t seem to be that close. Otherwise she is surrounded by strangers and is intensely alone with her feelings. In the second half Young-hee is back in South Korea with her friends and family. There are endless soju soaked dinners and she seems to be more happy with the familiar faces around her, but in the end, the loneliness is there – just in a slightly different form.

Hong and Kim admitted to a similar situation – a relationship between the actress Kim and the married director Hong – prior to this film. Many critics have looked at the film as a confession, but I’m going to leave that bit alone and let the film stand on its own merits.

The film is very much worth seeing for a couple of reasons:

Kim Min-hee is spectacular in her role as Young-hee. You can feel the raw nerve endings when she is isolated, and you can see them when there are happily drunken people everywhere. Young-hee clearly has feelings for the director and she is conflicted by the current situation – is it good that the affair happened and how is the director feeling about it? Kim’s sorrow and confusion are palpable and powerful.

The director, Hong Sang-soo, is great at composing confusion. Everything feels as uncertain as Young-hee’s feelings are. Hong has toned down his usual gimmicky style slightly and there are only a few explicitly weird elements to the film. This time around he builds the confusion more by making it feel like someone else is telling the story and getting some of the details completely wrong, or like someone is remembering the events after a drunken night and not getting everything right.

Hong uses extended shots throughout the film. This lends the film and the events in it a gravity and realism that wouldn’t otherwise be possible. It highlights the performance of Kim in that it is carried through the long shots without flaws. It also contributes to the overall atmosphere of reflection of Young-hee’s feelings.

The parts of the film combine to strengthen each other and build up to a whole that feels unified. It is a touching story of loneliness that is supported and intensified by the mise-en-scéne and the acting.

  • Director: Sang-soo Hong
  • Original Title: Bamui haebyun-eoseo honja
  • Watched on: 16th Sep 2017
  • Watched at: Korjaamo Kino
  • 4/5

Bobbi Jene [2017]

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A documentary about the modern dancer Bobbi Jene Smith and her leaving Ohad Naharin’s world famous Israeli Batsheva Dance Company in order to follow her personal career ambitions.

The documentary’s subject matter combines Bobbi’s very ordinary personal problems – can her relationship work, when her lover is 10 years her younger, should she put her career ambitions over her love life and her current comfortable life situation, her parents don’t understand her life choices that seem to exclude procreation – and her very extraordinary career as a an extraordinary dancer in probably the most extraordinary dancing company in the world currently.

The personal side is interesting. The dancing side is the reason I went to see the film. The film has been criticized for this very duality, but I see a strength in it. It let’s us see an artist, who pours everything in herself into her art, and lets the viewer in on her more personal moments as well, which shows us the everything she is pouring into the art.

The documentary quite uniquely manages to capture a time period in Bobbi’s life, that forms a full circle – it contains Bobbi’s last moments in Batsheva, her choreographing and practicing her first solo piece, and finally the first public performance of that piece, that is born out of the episode of leaving the company.

Although I see a strength in the personal being mixed up with the art, the personal takes too much space from the art. Although the film depicts an interesting piece in the life of an artist, the execution lacks ambition. But these problems are not big ones and the result is a unique look into the birth of a wonderful piece of art.

  • Director: Elvira Lind
  • Watched on: 16th Sep 2017
  • Watched at: Korjaamo Kino
  • 3.5/5

Wet Woman in the Wind [2016]

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For the 45th anniversary of the Japanese Nikkatsu studio’s Roman Porno series of films, the studio launched a reboot. The Roman Porno films gave unusual amounts of freedom and a small budget to the directors with just the expectation of some amounts of nudity. The results were energetic and artistic films, with some amounts of nudity. If this film is used as a measuring stick, the reboot is producing similar results.

In the film’s center is Kosuke (Tasuku Nagaoka), who is trying to isolate himself from everything after his marriage was ruined by an affair that ruined another marriage as well. The isolation is ruined by a sexual whirlwind, Shiori (Yuki Mamiya), who drives a motorcycle off the pier, where Kosuke is reading a book, and within minutes of getting out of the water, is nude and is wriggling her way into Kosuke’s life. Ghosts of Kosuke’s past keep reappearing despite his best efforts and the situations are complicated by Shiori trying to get into Kosuke’s pants by complicating the situations with the ghosts.

The result is an enjoyable, energetic, surprising slapstick with some amounts of nudity (mostly from the waist above). The film has a sort of B film feel to it in that anything can happen and often at least some of it is such intellectually surprising content that it rises above the soft core porn starting point into a film of real merit. Based on this, I will try to find more of the Roman Porno films, original and reboot.

  • Director: Akihiko Shiota
  • Original Title: Kaze ni nureta onna
  • Watched on: 16th Sep 2017
  • Watched at: Kino Engel 1
  • 3.5/5

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.

Rakkautta & Anarkiaa 2016 – part III

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The second Friday of the festival and my second to last day in it. Had a four day break before this day, which refreshed me nicely for the final two days.

Mr. Gaga [2015]

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Again we circle back to the importance of art and how I can appreciate art more, when I know enough context for it. This is a documentary about Ohad Naharin, a choreographer and dancer, who changed the language of modern dance for ever with his Gaga style. I haven’t seen any dance pieces by Naharin live, but I think I’ve seen something in the TV without realizing it, since his language of dance is quite distinctive.

This is a pretty straight forward documentary, so nothing revolutionary there. I guess this is the first one that was produced with extensive access to the Batsheva Dance Company’s film archives, which allows the film to show things from beyond the 8-year filming period of this film.

The director Tomer Heymann, was with us watching the film and answering questions afterwards, and what I gathered from him was, that he was pretty much like me – an uncultured person taking steps into his life as an independent adult and encountering art forcibly for the first time… and realizing that life without art is pretty much meaningless.

This shows from the documentary – Naharin is placed on a pedestal and kept there. There’s a few moments, where some cracks are shown. Then again, it doesn’t really matter. This is not an opinion piece on an important political topic or the like. This is about dance, and about how that dance was born. We see enough dancing and enough context to learn to appreciate Naharin’s flavor of dance and that’s enough for me.

Seems like I’ve was at quite a tender state during the festival, but this was yet another film that made me cry – for the beauty of dance this time.

  • Director: Tomer Heymann
  • Watched on: 23rd Sep 2016
  • Watched at: Orion
  • 4/5

Swiss Army Man [2016]

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For all the elating films I saw during the festival, this was a nice balancing act. Some people have called this Harry Potter 8, since it has Daniel Radcliffe playing Manny, a dead and decaying body. My inner Harry Potter died a little during the film…

Hank (played by Paul Dano) is a depressed man stranded on a desert island. One morning a body drifts ashore and Hank loots the belt from its pants to hang himself with… But then the corpse starts to fart and it seems like it is trying to tell Hank something. They end up taking a jet ski ride out from the island with the body acting as the jet ski powered by the farts… From there it doesn’t get much better.

In my books, this is usually recipe for disaster. I don’t like the comedies, where the joke is the first one that comes to mind. Some real thought has been put into this one. The jokes are stupid but surprising. The plot is non-existent, but you find yourself rooting for Hank and Manny to kiss… and only when they do, realize what you were rooting for.

Really a magnificent effort considering that the premise is a dead body that farts and talks a lot for being dead…

  • Director: Dan Kwan, Daniel Scheinert
  • Watched on: 23rd Sep 2016
  • Watched at: Savoy
  • 3.5/5

This was again a good day. An elating documentary on dance and a less elating film on farts. Not your everyday combination.

Rakkautta & Anarkiaa 2016 – part II

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Second day at the festival after one rest day.

Aloys [2016]

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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]

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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]

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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]

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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]

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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.