Though I didn’t get to update you as much as I would have liked to, covering this year’s Locarno Film Festival mainly for another blog, I still would like to discuss it here briefly. The Locarno Film Festival strives to be among the top ten festivals worldwide, but obviously they’re deluding themselves if they think they’re that important. Aside from a couple big names the event didn’t attract many big films or industry people, and they’re still trying to get over the fact that the Zürich Film Festival, which is almost sixty years younger, has more money and clout than they could dream of.
The change in artistic director (the guy that selects the films) has meant a dramatic shift in the quality of the films. Most of the press and public reactions I’ve heard seemed to echo this. For foreign press Locarno is just “something” between Cannes and Venice. The program this year was fairly underwhelming, but there were a couple good films. The best thing was that they managed to get Werner Herzog for a masterclass and to present dozens of his films. There were even unaired On Death Row episodes, which were beyond words. They touched me deeply and were some of the most powerful images (shot for television) I have ever seen.
Aside from Herzog, there was a George Cukor retrospective, but I didn’t catch any of those. Other guests of honor were Sir Christopher Lee, Faye Dunaway and Douglas Trumbull. I was also pleased to meet and shake hands with Baltasar Kormákur (director of 2 Guns), Hélène Cattet & Bruno Forzani (directors of The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears), James Fotopoulos (director of Dignity) and Matthew Johnson & Owen Williams (of The Dirties). Now that I mention all these nice people, the festival wasn’t so bad after all, because I enjoyed hearing these people talk after having seen their films. It’s like having live special features.
Here’s a list of everything I got to watch with short thoughts on the films I haven’t reviewed yet.
2 Guns (2013) – 6 (IMDb 7) – Action, Crime, Comedy (USA)
The first film I watched was 2 Guns and not being a big action fan I wasn’t expecting much. Like the director said this was a throwback to 80s genre fare and it shows. The plot is a bit too convoluted and complicated for me to be able to enjoy it, but there were some good laughs here and there and I’m sure action fans will get something out of this one. Like I said it’s not for me. The director is clearly very passionate about film and brining the industry to his country (Iceland) so it was great to hear him talk at the press conference.
Vijay And I (2013) – 6.5 (IMDb 6.3) – Comedy, Romance (Belgium)
La Variabile Umana (2013) – 5 (IMDb 4.6) – Crime, Drama (Italy)
I love Italian cinema, but this was like a bad crime TV show. I couldn’t relate to this old and annoying cop and his troubles with his cute, but mischievous daughter. The cinematography and score were great, but if they were used for another film, here they didn’t fit at all. We’ve seen this story a thousand times before and done a lot better so there was no need for this film to exist really. The only thing I liked was the use of different film stocks and some of the atmosphere, but other than that it was fairly underwhelming.
Wrong Cops (2013) – 3 (IMDb 7.2) – Comedy, Crime (USA)
Not my sense of humor. At all. I thought this film was just trying to offend and be edgy or shocking or whatever, but for me it was just dumb (for lack of better term). It was entertaining yes, but does that make it a good movie? The structure is terrible, the ending, well I wonder if it should be considered an ending, and the characters are so annoying. This was probably the worst film I’ve seen at the festival. I don’t want to discuss it any further.
The Dirties (2013) – 7.5 (IMDb 7.9) – Comedy, Drama (Canada)
We’re The Millers (2013) – 5 (IMDb 7.2) – Crime, Comedy (USA)
Stupid comedy. Yes, it’s kind of funny, but it’s just one vulgar joke after the other. The story is a crossover between RV and The Joneses, with a dash of Weeds. The characters are just caricatures. It gets tiring after a while to watch. I feel like this film was written for a twelve-year-old, and if that’s the case: Bravo, you’ve succeeded. I bet your target audience will eat this up (box office numbers seem to indicate so).
Feuchtgebiete (2013) – 3.5 (IMDb 5.2) – Drama (Germany)
One of the worst films of the festival. Trying to be oh-so-offensive. This film is about a girl experiencing life through her bodily fluids. The book it’s based on was written by a women, this film however was written and directed by two men, which makes no fucking sense whatsoever. I’m not sure if it’s a comedy or a drama, but I don’t know the film knows either, so that’s cool. They’re trying so hard to be art house and break taboos and shit, but they end up forgetting that what matters at the end of the day is trying to make a good movie. So if I say I hate this film, it’s not because of the reasons the directors would think, but because it’s shallow and boring and arrogant and pretentious (but not in a good way).
Our Sunhi (2013) – 6.5 (IMDb 6) – Drama, Romance, Comedy (South Korea)
Fairly boring and repetitive, but with a satisfying ending. This is a very romantic, but slow-moving Korean film. It’s about three men all interested in the same woman, but for different reasons and with varying degrees of a successful relationship with her. Basically this film shows you the different dates these guys go on and then they also know each other so it’s all these complicated relationships and love triangles and rectangles and hexagons and stuff. I liked it, but it’s a chore to sit through at times, because of the purposely static camera and well, just not much happening.
Dignity (2012) – 6 (IMDb N/A) – Fantasy, Horror, Sci-Fi (USA)
The Strange Color Of The Tears Of Your Body (2013) – 7 (IMDb 7.3) – Giallo (Belgium)
‘BEST OF RETROSPECTIVES’
Grizzly Man (2005) – 8.5 (IMDb 7.8) – Documentary, Biography (USA)
I was glad I caught at least one of Werner Herzog’s feature-length documentaries at the festival. It was incredible to hear Herzog give a master class about documentaries and his approach towards them. He’s very much against cinema verite and had some funny anecdotes in that sense. But speaking of Grizzly Man this is a terrifying and grandiose documentary about a man living and loving bears and then getting killed by one of them (that’s no spoiler, we’re told fairly early on). It’s heartbreaking because it’s so real and because Herzog manages once more to get at the heart of human nature. He captures this man’s madness, but also his passion for a cause he felt was important. I’m not going to lie between this one and On Death Row I cried more than once, but it was also so great and powerful that I just couldn’t help but fall in love with Werner Herzog. I was already a big fan of Stroszek, but now I’m going to track down and watch every film of his I can find.
The Stone (2013) – 6 (IMDb N/A) – Crime, Drama (South Korea)
This was a fairly boring film. It’s a debut feature. The director is clearly a Kim Ki-duk fan, and in the best moments of the film, the film is reminiscent of his style, but he has a lot to learn. The film is about a complicated Chinese board game called Go, which of course also becomes a metaphor for life and all that stuff. It’s fairly violent towards the end, but other than that not much happens. I don’t feel that this film achieved what it was going for and so it ends up being a bit forgettable.
‘BEST OFFICIAL SELECT’
L’Experience Blocher (2013) – 8 (IMDb N/A) – Documentary (Switzerland)
An incredible documentary on one of the most controversial political figures in Switzerland: Christophe Blocher, extreme right-wing populist. While I admire him as a self-made business man, I don’t necessarily agree with his political agenda and his methods, which often include scaring people in order to get votes. The filmmaker, clearly on the opposite side of the political spectrum, does a fine job of not making it a judgmental film. It’s not so much about Blocher’s ideas, but his persona. His life, his humanity. We see his wife, the places where he grew up, where he lives now, his daily life. It’s a fascinating portrayal of a lonely man. It reminded me almost of Citizen Kane towards the end, and I’m sure that was the Bron’s intent. Great documentary, but I doubt many outside of Switzerland are going to seek this one out I’m afraid, because of its protagonist that is only “famous” here “unfortunately”.
Mary Queen Of Scots (2013) – 6.5 (IMDb 5.7) – Biography, Drama, Romance (Switzerland)
A rather triste and rehearsed costume drama. I felt they were trying to go Marie Antoinette, but of course they can only dream. The story would be interesting, but the execution is kind of boring (except for the cinematography and the score). The actors are really good, but the script is the real problem. There’s not much to keep the viewer engaged. A lot happens, but it’s as if nothing happens. Again, I’m not sure what exactly went wrong with this film, because it’s good on a technical level, but just ends up being underwhelming.
‘BEST OF THE FEST’
Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction (2012) – 8.5 (IMDb 7.7) – Documentary (Switzerland)
About Time (2013) – 5.5 (IMDb 6.4) – Comedy, Drama, Sci-Fi (UK)
A problematic screenplay. The story is an incoherent mess. Still you can’t help but let the sweeping romanticism get the best of you. It starts as a comedy and ends as a drama, a very sappy one, but still. It’s about a guy who can time travel (but only to the past) and uses it to get the girl of his dreams. Surprisingly, the time travel aspect is used poorly and not commented on (directly). It’s a sweet film, but at the same time it feels forced and cliché.
Real (2013) – 6.5 (IMDb 5.9) – Drama, Sci-Fi (Japan)
If you like big twists prepare for this one, or don’t, because I could see it coming and I’m usually the worst at identifying plot twists. Real is the story of a young man entering the mind of his girlfriend (through some weird futuristic technology) to save her from the coma she’s in. She seems to be hiding a dark past and our hero must find a way to get her back, but it’s not easy. There’s all sort of crazy stuff happening here, unfortunately the film spins its wheels for too long and so by the time you get to the end most viewers might have “checked out”. Some leaner editing would have helped, but once it gets going it’s actually not even that bad and Odagiri Jô is in it, so that was a nice surprise.
The new artistic director’s tastes are a bit too obvious when it comes to selecting the films for the festival. So if you’re a young indie filmmaker and you’re thinking to enter the Locarno Film Festival here are a couple tips to make sure your film will be picked up. If you follow all of these I really don’t see how they can turn you down.
Here’s a list of characteristics your film should present if you want it to play in Locarno.
1) Make a film about film
Almost every film I’ve seen at the festival featured references to other films. Some films were about film and filmmaking, commenting on it and the industry or the filmmaking process. So if you want to be sure your film is selected just throw in some references to other films.
2) Do a genre bender
Most films I’ve seen were mixing more than one genre. None of them were straight up dramas, they always borrowed elements from one or more genres. So if you want to be sure your film makes it to Locarno don’t hold back: Throw in every genre you can think of. The more the merrier.
3) Differentiate yourself aesthetically
Nothing is more boring than a standard looking film. Do something crazy visually. It doesn’t matter if it’s good or bad or even appropriate to the story you’re telling: Just be different. Be bold, they’ll love it.
4) Remember your social commentary
Your film has to have something to say about society, art or life otherwise it’s worth nothing. I joke of course, but they don’t. They want a film that is relevant. Political subject matters are always appreciated, but don’t go with anything as obvious as the holocaust: That stuff is so passé.
5) Go dark
If you can create a dark and depressing mood you’ll win their hearts (maybe even the golden leopard). They love it. It makes your film look deep, even if it isn’t. If you’re not good with mood, try a dark subject matter or a dark color palette, but also remember point 3. Actually, screw it! If you want to respect only one of these points make sure it’s this one. The other ones are fine, but if your film is light, hopeful and god forbid just entertaining you have no fucking chance in hell to get into the festival.
Good luck & please do consider other festivals as well (just in case).
Dan Kristensen (Klaus Tange) returns home one day and discovers that his wife Edwige has disappeared. Dan starts investigating Edwige’s disappearance and the strange and mysterious places and people of his apartment complex. Did she leave him? Is she dead? Also, what the hell is going on with his creepy neighbors? Of course the police can’t help him, they just don’t believe him. Soon his search and obsession cause him to descent into a world of madness. Fact and fiction become harder to distinguish. Dreams and nightmares intertwine with reality until they become one and the same. Will he ever find his wife’s killer? Is there a killer? Who’s the killer? Continue reading
Lamb (David Zellner) and Rainbow (Nathan Zellner) are two agents sent on an alien planet to fight the civil war. On their mission to destroy a perpetual motion machine they are imprisoned. Trapped light-years away from their home planet, they’re desperately trying to stay sane, but slowly and inevitably they become delirious. Somehow they appear to escape their prison and reprise their journey, but it seems like their troubles have only just begun. Continue reading
Matt (Matthew Johnson) and Owen (Owen Williams) are two best friends with a passion for film and filmmaking. Their latest project is a comedy about two guys getting revenge, Columbine-style, on a group of bullies at their school, called the dirties. What started as a funny school project, that gets brutally salvaged and censored by their school principal soon turns into something more for Matt. While Owen seems to be able to cope with the bullies, and is more interested in pursuing his crush Crissy (Krista Madison), Matt is slowly, but surely descending into madness and planning to terminate those that treated him like shit. Continue reading
Will Wilder (Moritz Bleibtreu) is an actor who stars in a television series for children, in which she plays a giant green rabbit who is very unlucky. When the day of his fortieth birthday (coincidentally Friday the thirteenth), no one seems to remember him, Will is nothing short of furious. To make matters worse, his car is stolen from him right under his nose. After a wild night with the only friend he has left, Rad (Danny Pudi) a restaurateur Indian, Will discovers that the world believes that he has died in a car accident. Actually it was just bad karma for the car thief. Will is faced with a choice: Tell everyone he’s still alive or play dead. So he decides to disguise himself as an Indian (Vijay) to go to his own funeral. When he realizes that his family, his own wife Julia (Patricia Arquette) prefer Vijay (a charming Indian banker or Will’s performance of a lifetime), the charade continues, until as it’s inevitable, he is gradually exposed. Continue reading
If you happen to be living in the Locarno area or are visiting the city located in southern Switzerland, I have a real treat for you.
Just today they announced the two free screenings preceding the official beginning of the 66th Locarno Film Festival.
On August 4th, Vittorio De Sica‘s Golden Bear and Academy Award winning The Garden of the Finzi-Continis (1970) will be shown, with producer Arthur Cohn and protagonist Lino Capolicchio present. For the second soirée, August 6th, they’ll screen Roman Polanski’s Chinatown (1974). The film was nominated for eleven Oscars and won best original screenplay. A screening of Chinatown, makes sense, because aside from being a great film it stars Faye Dunaway, who will be honored with the Leopard Club Award during the festival (August 9th). If you happen to be at Spazio Cinema (Forum) on that day at 10:30 a.m., Faye will be attend a panel open to the public.
Again, and I can’t stress this enough, the pre-festival evenings are free, you have no excuse for not being there. Last year they even gave out free bottles of water and it’s the open-air experience and two excellent films from two of cinema’s best directors. Both films start at 9:30 p.m. Make it happen!
Today they announced the program for the 66th edition of the Locarno Film Festival. I was there at the press conference held in Bellinzona and I’m proud to announce that I will be attending as a blogger, not for this website however, but Joypad Movies, which sadly is an Italian speaking blog. Luckily, I’ll still report the good news right here of course. I’ll share every bit of information, reviews and photographs I’ll be able to take. But for now let’s stick to the program.
The festival will take place through August 7th – 17th in Locarno, Switzerland. These are the films playing in the Piazza Grande.
07.08 – 2 GUNS by Baltasar Kormákur – United States
08.08 – VIJAY AND I by Sam Garbarski – Belgium/Luxembourg/Germany
09.08 – LA VARIABILE UMANA by Bruno Oliviero – Italy
09.08 – WRONG COPS by Quentin Dupieux – United States
10.08 – WE’RE THE MILLERS by Rawson Marshall Thurber – United States
10.08 – THE KEEPER OF LOST CAUSES by Mikkel Nørgaard – Denmark/Germany/Sweden
11.08 – LES GRANDES ONDES (À L’OUEST) by Lionel Baier – Switzerland/France/Portugal
11.08 – RICH AND FAMOUS by George Cukor – United States
12.08 – GABRIELLE by Louise Archambault – Canada
13.08 – L’EXPÉRIENCE BLOCHER by Jean-Stéphane Bron – Switzerland/France
14.08 – GLORIA by Sebastián Lelio – Chile
15.08 – MR. MORGAN’S LAST LOVE by Sandra Nettelbeck – Germany/Belgium
15.08 – BLUE RUIN by Jeremy Saulnier – United States
16.08 – ABOUT TIME by Richard Curtis – United Kingdom
16.08 – FITZCARRALDO by Werner Herzog – Germany/Peru
17.08 – SUR LE CHEMIN DE L’ÉCOLE by Pascal Plisson – France
As for other films playing. There’s the retrospective of American auteur George Cukor, lots of films by German master filmmaker Werner Herzog who will be receiving an honorary award and they’ll also screen his new (never-seen-before!) documentary series Death Row and a celebration of special effects genius Douglas Trubull (2001: A Space Odyssey). Other celebrities that will be present include: Chrispher Lee, Faye Dunaway and Brie Larson.
The festival will however be mostly about foreign indie fare, with (unknown) films from all over the globe. Debut films, short films, world premieres: It’s going to be a blast. Hope to see some of you out there, just wave and say “hi”!