The 63rd Locarno Film Festival (site) opens tonight with the world premiere of Benoît Jacquot's Deep in the Woods. This'll be the "first edition under the direction of Olivier Père, who was previously artistic director of the Cannes Directors' Fortnight," notes Anna Percival at Cineuropa. "This year's event is marked by the desire to focus the festival on three main points: the discovery of new talent, the financial network and glamour, an essential ingredient for all film festivals. Père commented: 'I want to put the emphasis on new trends rather than on more institutionalised cinema.'"
Even so, among the highlights will be the presentation on August 13 of a lifetime achievement award to Francesco Rosi followed by a screening of a newly restored print his Many Wars Ago (1970). Still, the Hollywood Reporter's Rebecca Leffler notes that Père's "edgy choices" for this year's lineup, "including everything from Chinese comedy to Canadian gay porn," screening through August 14, "may raise eyebrows for the first time in years."
The "Canadian gay porn" would be Bruce LaBruce's LA Zombie, banned from a screening at the Melbourne International Film Festival by the Australian classification board. The director recently told the Sidney Morning Herald's Michelle Griffin, "My first thought was 'Eureka!' I'll never understand how censors don't see that the more they try to suppress a film, the more people will want to see it. It gives me a profile I didn't have yesterday. My film is debuting at Locarno in competition, it's a prestigious festival. So it's self evident it has artistic merit and most censorship boards take that into account."
Leffler: "'It's a mix of very strange experimental video and gore,' Père says of the unorthodox title. [LA Zombie star François] Sagat also has a role in Christophe Honoré's somewhat provocative Man at Bath. 'It's pretty sexual,' Père says of the film about a gay couple going through a breakup. 'I want (Locarno) to go back to its origins as a festival that took risks, that didn't just recycle films from other festivals,' he adds."
The juries make for a more interesting mix than many at larger festivals. Eric Khoo presides over the international competition jury that includes Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani, Melvil Poupaud, Lionel Baier and Joshua Safdie, who might as well be summering in Europe as his and his brother Benny's new short, John's Gone, premieres in Venice next month. Eduardo Antin (Quintín) presides over the Concorso Cineasti del presente jury, whose other members are Anita Caprioli, Maren Ade, Joachim Lafosse and Thom Andersen. And the Concorso Pardi di domani jury is headed up by none other than Lisandro Alonso; other members: Sylvie Pialat, Nina Meurisse, Miguel Gomes and Corneliu Porumboiu.
Jacquot's opener, Deep in the Woods, "stars 27-year-old French actress and filmmaker Isild Le Besco," notes Leffler, "who will also present her third feature as a director, Underworld, which Père says tells the 'shocking and poetic' story of three girls who kill a biker in a small village."
Earlier: "Leopard of Honour for Jia Zhangke."
Photo by Fabrizio Maltese/EF Press/fabriziomaltese.com, Locarno 2010.
Update, 8/6: IndieWIRE interviews Kitao Sakurai, whose debut feature Aardvark sees its world premiere in Locarno. And Eric Kohn reviews LA Zombie: "A purely experimental exercise in the cinema of the body, the movie overstates LaBruce's gay-porn-as-art routine in an extreme fashion even by his own standards."
Updates, 8/9: "After screening his nearly four-hour documentary Rata Nece Biti, on the aftermath of the war in the former Yugoslavia, at Locarno (then going on to win the Turin Film Festival and a David di Donatello), Daniele Gaglianone returns to narrative cinema and the Swiss festival with Pietro, the only Italian title in competition for the Golden Leopard." Gabriele Barcaro for Cineuropa: "Though this piece of cinéma vérité is not entirely successful, it strives sincerely to capture, through the story of an outcast, the heart of the society in which we live."
At indieWIRE, Eric Kohn reviews Honoré's Man at Bath and Jalmari Helander's Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale.
Updates, 8/10: "The circle of life is given warm and redemptive treatment in La petite chambre, written and directed by Stéphanie Chuat and Véronique Reymond," writes Ray Bennett in the Hollywood Reporter. "An encounter between a private nurse, who recently lost a child, and an old man tired of living affords each the chance to reassess his fate."
Also: "Belgian filmmaker Vanja d'Alcantara's Beyond the Steppes is a gripping and sometimes harrowing story of a mother's determination to keep herself and her infant child alive despite brutal hardship. The film is set in Poland and the Soviet Union in 1940 before Hitler invaded Russia and it uses the languages of those countries. Polish actress Agnieszka Grochowska gives a riveting performance as Nina, one of many women taken from their homeland to the Asian wilds of the USSR and forced into pointless hard labor."
And: "Danish filmmaker Valdís Óskarsdóttir, who won the 2004 best editing prize at the BAFTA film awards for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, has created a winning concoction for her second feature, King's Road (Kóngavegur), which had its international premiere at Locarno. Set in a bedraggled trailer park in rural Iceland, populated by a bunch of goofballs, eccentrics and sad sacks, the film could be taken as a penetrating satire of all that went wrong in that country's financial meltdown as much as a genially whacky little romp."
" A man who finds himself unexpectedly stuck with a little baby is funny, but in the context of the war in the Balkans things become much more tragic," writes Deborah Young, also in THR. "Bosnian director Nedzad Begovic struggles to find an original tone for Jasmina half-way between comedy and drama, yet the story ends up more sentimental and schematic than droll. In the few moments when Jasmina strikes the right chord, it becomes tearfully touching, but overall it's much too soft to survive without festival protection."
"Unlike the far-fetched conceits of alien invasions and deep space travel, cloning is tangible to the point where it doesn't demand extreme suspension of disbelief," writes Eric Kohn at indieWIRE. "The action can take place in a familiar world; the sci-fi ingredients make an ordinary story look like something different. Such is the case with [Hungarian director Benedek Fliegauf's] arid cloning thriller Womb, as it uses the subgenre to shelter a screenplay marred by underwritten drama."
Photo by Fabrizio Maltese/EF Press/fabriziomaltese.com, Locarno 2010.
Updates, 8/11: David Jenkins sends a dispatch into Time Out London, offering capsule reviews of Deep in the Woods, LA Zombie, Man at Bath, Aardvark, Womb and Aaron Katz's Cold Weather. "The really sexy stuff was in the retrospective of the films of Ernst Lubitsch, the German-born master of the bawdy musical comedy. Maurice Chevalier's use of sexual innuendo in films like The Smiling Lieutenant (1931) and The Merry Widow (1934) was far more erotic and edgy than anything the new films had to offer. It wasn't all sex. The best new film I saw was by German director Pia Marais, whose At Ellen's Age is a cryptic, almost Haneke-like study of alienation and indecision which sees Jeanne Balibar as a crisis-stricken air stewardess who goes in search of her true vocation. It's a difficult movie, one that treads a thin line between the playfully enigmatic and the incomprehensible, but its intelligence, precision and intent to provoke were palpable."
"It's safe to say that [Daniel] Cockburn delivers a more advanced rumination on the fragility of human consciousness than the levels in Inception," writes Eric Kohn at indieWIRE. "However, fan sites won't delve into his intentions with similar vigor, because solving the astute psychological puzzles of You Are Here would ruin the alternately frustrating and revelatory cinematic experience he has carefully built."
Lukas Foerster has been filing reports for Cargo; Film Zeit's been gathering dispatches from the German papers.
Updates, 8/14: Viewing. Jonathan Romney talks with festival director Olivier Père for Sight & Sound.
"In the Serbian drama White White World: The Miner's Opera (Beli Beli Svet), the characters sing, but never dance," writes Eric Kohn at indieWIRE. "With his sophomore effort, director Oleg Novkovic uses musical expression to frame inner monologues that would never work in spoken form. As a result, a story exclusively populated by damaged people engaged in morally ambiguous, often depraved behavior manages to evoke sympathy for all of them."
More from Ray Bennett in the Hollywood Reporter, where he also reviews The Human Resources Manager, "a typically humane and observant drama from Israeli filmmaker Eran Riklis about a personnel officer who goes beyond the call of duty for a deceased employee. The film has wit and character, and the central mission sees many unexpected complications before Riklis and screenwriter Noah Stollman arrive at a warm and compassionate conclusion."
Update, 8/17: "Turkish director Tayfun Pirselimoglu's Hair is a dreary and dispiriting tale of a wig seller dying of cancer who becomes obsessed with a woman married to a man who washes corpses for a living," sighs Ray Bennett in the Hollywood Reporter.
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