ROTTERDAM INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL kicked off on 27th January in the Dutch major shipping port. Of the 250 features on offer, over 100 were world or international premieres. We’d like to point you in the direction of some worth watching out for in the 10-day jamboree and the coming year. All the winners are here
5 OCTOBER Polish director and photographer Martin Kollár’s cinematography is the reason to see this impressive documentary debut. What unfolds in this silent story of a man preparing for life-changing surgery is an absolutely captivating journey across Europe shot with great verve, tenderness and humour. 5 OCTOBER features the director’s 52-year-old brother Ján in centre frame with a moving narration comprised only of postcards, mementos and the relentless count-down that rises up unimpeded from his journal. With a “flip of the coin” probability of surviving a necessary but very complicated surgery, Ján embarks on his own Easy Rider momento mori odyssey as we slowly discover what he’s running away from.
ALBA is an extraordinary debut from Ecuadorian director Ana Cristina Barragan. Macarena Arias is the standout here as a pre-teenage girl who goes to live with her solitary father while her mother is in hospital. Barragan tackles themes of bullying, relationships and shyness as Alba (Arias) is forced to bear the humiliation of frequent nosebleeds and wearing a corset to straighten her crooked spine. With minimal dialogue, a tentative bond slowly develops between daughter and father as Alba blossoms cautiously. This strikingly mature and poignant debut comes from a country that until the beginning of this century had only made one film a year. Young leading actress Macarena Arias is one to keep an eye on. She manages to bring a rare intensity to this tender coming of age tale.
BELLA E PERDUTA A paean to Italy’s faded glory, this poetic imagined drama and essayist documentary is set in magical Carditello Palace, once owned by the Bourbon dynasty. The fictional clown Pulcinella comes across the real-life Tommaso, self-appointed guardian angel of the palace. Evokes the decaying splendour of Italy’s rich and magnetic past.
The Palace is in decay and has been stripped clean by plunderers. The local farmer Tommaso earned his nickname ‘Angel of Carditello’ by guarding the estate and restoring it out of his own pocket. Documentary maker Pietro Marcello saw here the start of a journey through the provinces of Italy in which he would examine the state of his country: stunningly beautiful yet in decay. But when Tommaso suddenly dies, this true-life fairytale comes to an abrupt end, pushing Marcello in a new direction. He introduces the crazy Pulcinella, a figure from 17th-century commedia dell’arte, anglicised as Punch. A journey that is smaller in scale yet greater in effect than the journey Marcello first wanted to make.
Serbian director Bakur Bakuradze grew up in Georgia and studied in Russia. In BROTHER DEJAN He bases his central character loosely on the Bosnian-Serbian General Ratko Mladic, but sidesteps important issues of politics in order to explore those such as good and evil. Much more important in this sober and observing story is the question: Can a man like Stanic really start to understand in his last years of life? BROTHER DEJAN explores several months from the life of Dejan Stanic, a general wanted for war crimes during the Yugoslavian Civil War. At first managing to stay out of the hands of justice, he flees to neighbouring Slovenia with the help of his old compatriots, due to political changes. With his heavy beard and slovenly appearance, no one recognises Dejan Stanic as the one-time war hero/criminal. A simple excuse is enough for him to be able to move around an isolated mountain village in relative peace; he pretends to be an old friend of one of the inhabitants, Slavko, whom he supposedly met many years ago at a health resort. Slavko’s house is his last hiding place before Dejan finally leaves the country. The loneliness forces him to start thinking, for the very first time, about his own past.
21 NIGHTS WITH PATTIE is an intriguing title for a film that blends black comedy with fantasy and magic realism. Arnaud and Jean-Marie Larrieu’s provocatively entitled Vingt et Une Nuits Avec Pattie certainly rolls off the tongue better in French, but this is a tricky tale to digest in any language, and after two longs hours and a final act that lets it all hang out, you may well come away wishing the brothers had left it at that: a boozy French drama with a touch of ‘Midsomer Murders’ and a dash of discretion.
Plunging into the bosky hillsides of Languedoc Rousillion, Caroline (Isabelle Carré) arrives at her mother’s bohemian retreat on a blazing hot August day. The two were not close in real life and her mother is now lying ‘in wake’ in the cool stone cottage, and Caroline must arrange her funeral. Despite this morbid event, the tone is light-hearted; almost jubilant and even more so when she meets Pattie (Karin Viard) the caretaker and best described as ‘une femme mûre’, who regales her with explicit tales of her recent sexual conquests with various local lads. Later on the corpse of her mother disappears, leading to a police investigation that drifts into a Savannah-style ghost story and an erotic awakening for the bewildered Parisienne.
Best described as a suspense thriller, 11 MINUTES explores themes of fate and paranoia. Set in the sweeping urban spaces of contemporary Warsaw, it could also be entitled Crossover, dealing, as it does, with eleven minutes in the lives of a random bunch of characters whose lives collide in the centre of the capital. Wildly frenetic and octane-fuelled, the action unfurls chaotically with moments of surreal beauty and hard-edged passion. Invasion of privacy insinuates the narrative in the shape of security cameras, webcams and mobile phones which track the protagonists during this frenzied few minutes of precision filmmaking.
Thrilling, bewildering and at times quite exhausting to take in, Skolimowski’s dramatic storyline is not the most involving or satisfying of experiences. Like a vintage wine, this is a multi-layered tour de force whose infinite subtleties will emerge with each viewing. The mesmerising set-pieces are brilliantly crafted and certainly amongst the most extraordinary action sequences ever committed to film. The final moments are simply breath-taking and mark out Jerzy Skolimowski as a director who, after 50 years, is still quite clearly at the top of his game. MT
Locarno FIPRESCI winner SUITE ARMORICAINE sees directori Pascale Breton returning to her birthplace in Rennes, Britanny where her main character Françoise (Valérie Dréville) intends to teach at the university. Evoking memories of her lively time as a student by clever use of flashbacks and archive footage, Breton lengthy narrative explores the relationship between Francoise and a student Ion (Kaou Langoët), who, for less nostalgic reasons, is there forget his troubled childhood. But teacher and student turn out to have more in common than expected. Stunningly set in the the heavily forested Breton landscape, Breton’s story switching between the two protagonists and it slowly becomes clear how much they are linked together. Key moments are shown twice, from the perspective of the teacher and of the student. This results in a personal and nostalgic story with avant-garde elements. A dreamy constellation in which Pascale Breton muses and reflects on the time when mobile phones had not yet been invented. MT
ROTTERDAM INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 27 JANUARY UNTIL 7 FEBRUARY 2015