FNC 2017: New Works by Landmark Directors

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Festivals being an occasion to catch up with the latest works of international film directors from every corners of the world, here’s some notable picks:

 

The Other Side of Hope

(Sunday October 15,7:10 PM Cinéma du Parc 2)

Finnish living legend Aki Kaurismaki (Leningrad Cowboys, Le Havre, The man without a past, etc) unique style is at work again, still on a surprising shoe string budget for such a major contemporary director. He fully demonstrates that when creativity is part of your DNA you don’t need 50 million dollars. Back are the loony situations wonderfully enhanced by Kaurismaki regular, Sakari Kuosmanen, supported by a strong ensemble cast that seem at times to have been hypnotized. But that is part of the director’s signature. As we follow the story of refugees and outcasts evolving around the restaurant of a local entrepreneur, issues about immigration, Rock n Roll, love, life and death are introduced with a light touch into his always simple but beautiful framing. As always with Kaurismaki odd choices (his assumed colorful Art direction is all there) and while we don’t know if we should cry or laugh, he moves us and we leave the cinema pretty much with a feeling of happiness. It should not work, but it does because he is a brilliant film maker.

This work of love is like candy. Best left to melt in the mouth.

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Outrage Coda

(Wednesday October 11, 5:00 PM – Cinéma du Parc 2)

With Outrage Coda (the third episode of his Outrage trilogy) actor-director Takeshi Kitano (Sonatin, Hana-Bi, Kikujiro) takes us, once more, into Yakuza intrigues.

This time around, Otomo (Takeshi) is on a killing rampage to rub out almost everything that walks on two legs in order to settle a dispute between rival gangs.

A kind of safe choice where you know what you’ll get as a spectator. It doesn’t cover any new territories for Takeshi who gives himself minimum screen time, so when he appears you are in for stylish violence delivered with offbeat humor. Business as usual.

 

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Samui Song

(Tuesday October 10, 4:00 PM Cineplex Odeon Quartier SALLE 10)

In Thailand’s Pen-Ek Ratanaruang (Last life in the Universe, Ploy, Invisible Waves) Samui Song, a soap opera actress, who’s husband is under the spell of a charismatic cult leader, sets a scheme to escape dark destiny that will lead to a chain of tragic results.

Although the ending (that I won’t display here) is not fully convincing, Ratanaruang’s direction pace and overall signature, with his usual odd shifts into the storyline, offer an intriguing insight into the grey zone which lies in us all. It is specifically this talent to create unsettling changes that makes this director as interesting as he is overlooked. And Samui song certainly worth a look.

 

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Frost

(Sunday October 15, 8:00 PM –   Quartier Latin  10)

Lithuanian director Sharunas Bartas filmography is an ode to unsettling minimalism. With FROST, Bartas ventures into the Ukrainian war.

A couple of insouciant young Lithuanians, accept to bring humanitarian aid from Vilnius to Ukraine without real understanding of what they are up to, until reality catch up with them.

Their relation and motivation being unclear right from the start, we get nearly no characters development, apart from the fact they are obviously very naive in taking this trip like an adventure. Bartas takes us on the road with limited background information. He uses close shots, no music. All along we are strangers to the conflict and it is difficult to understand where we are exactly, until it is too late. This was dubbed by various critics as an absence of dramatic build up. They are wrong.

Bartas quiet minimalism and foggy situations lead us into an abyss. Like its characters (or occidental audiences and critics), he can’t pretend he fully understands this complicated conflict (like too many directors do with a war subject). Further more if the first half of the film is kind of quiet, the director demonstrates that you do not have to show much (he is pretty restrain) to expose horror , and in its later section, which definitely takes a darker tone, the violence is not gratuitous. Frost display a sense of decency, in tackling a difficult subject, that is quite honorable.

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Fantasia 2017: Bad Genius (Thailand – 2017)

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Nattawut Poonpiriya’s Bad Genius is a fun ride. The Buzz around the film is so good, the Fantasia Film Fest team added a screening.

A Math exam cheating story shot as a thriller? Yes!

In Bad genius Lynn is a gifted Math student who comes from humble background. In exchange of money, she helps a fellow student, from a wealthier family, by finding a (suspenseful) way to share with her the results to a difficult test. What is a sole effort eventually becomes a more elaborate scam involving an exam-cheating syndicate. Continue reading

FANTASIA 2016: HEART ATTACK (THAI- Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit)

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A hard-working freelancer graphic designer see his life getting worse every day. He secretly falls in love with the doctor trying to help him cure his strange rash allergies.

Heart Attack is the 4th feature film by Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit (36, Mary is Happy, Mary is Happy) one of the most interesting independent Thai director around. More accessible than his previous and more experimental films, this singular romantic comedy  is a Continue reading

CEMETERY OF SPLENDOUR (2015- Apichatpong Weesatherakul)

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Always at the edge of experimental cinema , the films of Thai director Apichatpong Weesatherakul are always a challenge for moviegoers. With his hypnotic slowness, a deliberately languid pacing and some scenes that alternates between reality and fantasy, his films are best appreciated by the art crowd whom many consider him a master of contemporary and abstract cinema.

A group of soldiers in a small town on the Mekong River in Northern Thailand are suffering from a mysterious disease and transferred to a temporary hospital set up in an abandoned school. With the help of a young medium, an aging woman tries to solve the mystery surrounding this bizarre sleeping illness.

In his new opus, the director goes back to his fantastic roots (like for Syndromes of a Century in 2006 or the second part of Tropical Malady) and brings his most political (yet allegorical) film to date.  All his cherished themes are here: illness, hospitals, religious beliefs and, of course, the symptomatic contrast between human and his surrounding landscape. It is a brilliant metaphor to dormant Thai people since the military dictatorship is back in force after the upbringing coup of May 2014.

More linear than before, Cemetery of Splendour still has a slow and contemplative rhythm that may not be to everyone’s taste. But if you’re in for an immersion into his singular and haunting world, you’ll find that triviality mingled with spirituality ; that light therapy is the link between deep-rooted traditions and modernity that is increasingly growing and invasive. It is a gorgeous film, haunting us well beyond the end of the screening.