5. nov. 2012

BIFF 2012: Part one

This years film festival in Bergen is now long gone. Armed with a press pass I watched dozens of films and documentaries. I have decided to say a few words about the ones I have watched. I saw a total of 19 films and documentaries.

Joschka und Herr Fischer (Documentary)

A thorough account of the political life of Joseph Martin Fischer. It remains interesting throughout in its depiction of a divided post-war Germany through the eyes of rebellious youth, one that is in the end forced to sacrifice his political alliegance in order to do what he believes is the greater good of society. Joseph Fischer is and certainly was a fascinating character. Highly recommended.

Amour/Love (Film)

This film explored elderly care, or lack thereof, and suffering as a result of it. In this regard the film is thoroughly exhausts your every emotion and leaves you feeling numb, this is one of them. I am unsure if the film was simply dull or ruined by the fact that the audience laughed at several scenes which I imagine were *not* intentionally humorous. It should be noted that the average age of audience dropped the second a sociology class of 30 students still in high school entered the theater. I suppose this goes to show that it is not always easy to review movies at festivals. The feeling of dread soon entered my body either for the fact that director Michael Haneke simply has no interest in appealing to his audience or the disruptive audience. The dialogue isn't interesting, the editing is clunky and the mood is drab. Life can be tough sometimes, but Haneke offers no redemption for his characters. Hunger (Steve McQueen) comes to mind; a film that showed that even in suffering there can be beauty. Amour has none. This review not admissable by the way.

 Beasts of The Southern Wild (Film)

As sudden as it appeared, it became an instant favorite with both critics and audiences alike just as fast. I went in with high expectations and was not disappointed. The whole theater was easily packed. First of all parts of the movie did come off as slightly contrived and might discourage some viewers, but this is a minor problem and hardly dampens the emotional payoff towards the end. Overall Beasts of The Southern Wild is a great film with an unusual narrative structure and naturalistic tone blended with audience-pleasing moments of humanity. It's a film that is very easy to get lost in, and hard to forget. 

How To Survive A Plague (Documentary)

The best kind of documentary is one that hits you right in the face by how well-done it is. How To Survive A Plague is without a doubt the best documentary and film I saw at this years festival, and perhaps the best film I've seen all year. Partly a documentation of 1980s AIDS-crisis, but mostly about the personal struggle of the members of the gay-rights activist group Act Up. Director David France serves up an entertaining and engaging look into how the crisis affected and eventually split the activist group. France elegantly keeps the scope on a few key characters throughout the film without lessening the overall historical scope. The dedication of the activist group is what truly fuels this film though, their pain and frustration is palpable until the very end. This film effortlessly invokes an emotional response of such magnitude rarely seen in the documentary genre and hits you right in the chest when you least expect it. How To Survive A Plague stands out simply by how humane it is without being too preachy or manipulating your feelings.

Footnote (Film)
Footnote is a film about father/son relationships and in this case one that has gone sour due to a conflict of interest. This infinitely entertaining comedy drama from Israel has some incredibly sharp writing and a solid emotional core on the subject of family. Both characters of father and son are expertly played, their differences illustrate the difficulty of both fatherhood and growing up. The film is sharply edited and plays like a classic feud-film. Footnote stands out easily due to its hilarious dialogue and the unpredictable nature of the characters. Its a superbly told story, which in the end will surprise you.

26. okt. 2011

BIFF 2011: Day Eight Review

Last day of BIFF ends with a bang, but not really.

Pina (3D):
An interesting exploration of the highly esteemed choreographer with the same name, but a difficult film to judge for those unbeknownst to her work. It is somewhat difficult to enjoy as well despite some mighty impressive 3D effects and choreography.

The Yellow Sea:
Hilarious, exhilarating and long are words I would use to describe this epic South-Korean mafia film.

25. okt. 2011

BIFF 2011: Day Seven

Just one more day to go now. The best for last I guess.

A very touching and personal documentary on dealing with the difficulties of life told through horse-training.

Funniest documentary seen this year with a truly fascinating story.

Beats Rhymes and Life:
Great documentary on the very influential Jazz-Hop group A Tribe Called quest on how they started and ended.

BIFF 2011: Day Six

No one is paying me to type these reviews and so here's a sentence each and some scores. Enjoy.

A Separation:
A complex drama with some neat moral dilemmas.

Thunder Soul:
Good documentary on the story of a legendary high school funk band and its reunion.

Fantastically shot live concert of Sigur Ros and some telling clips of the band's identity.

23. okt. 2011

BIFF 2011: Day Five

Cinema Komunisto, (Turajlic):
A historical documentary that offers some interesting insights on the former Yugoslavian president Tito's fascination with cinema/films and how that affected the country's culture and overall policy. Tito invested billions upon billions into the Yugoslavian film industry to use it as propaganda and art (sort of). And the movies he influenced the most appear to be absolutely hilarious in hindsight.
Much like what you can see from North-Korea: praise of the leader, bashing of the 'enemy' and naive world-views are cheaply implemented into the films in a way that is just amusing and offers a ton of laughs throughout this film. For the most part it's an interesting documentary that offers a lot to those who take an interest in eastern-european culture and a little something for everyone else.

Alps, (Lanthimos):
Alps is the latest film of Dogtooth-director Giorgos Lanthimos, a fact that is very much apparent throughout the film. From the familiar face of the main character (who played the older sister in the ever so brilliant Dogtooth) to the imitative dialogue between the characters that generates some awkward laughs.
Alps features the absurd human interaction much in the same vein as Dogtooth, though it feels more as if the characters of that film grew up and became somewhat less insane. And just as with that movie this one is on a completely different planet, the plot just as absurd. Although not as instantly revealing of its genious as Dogtooth, this film is almost just as rewarding in a slow and effortless way.

Life In A Day, (Macdonald)
A most ambitious documentary starring about a hundred different people from different countries with glimpses of their daily lives all shot within one day. Life In A Day is an extremely fun documentary that plays like a continuous Youtube-video that offers some very inspirational and exceptional footage.
The footage is all very professionaly done. Even though the quality of the footage is differing at times it's mostly very watchable. Although the film tends to get overly ambitious there's a sense of consistency throughout.

22. okt. 2011

BIFF 2011: Day Four

My fourth day at BIFF was terrible but at the same time pretty neat. The first movie of the day that I had intended to see (Womb) was just terrible. It's about these two kids that are sort of in love and have a special bond, that one day are separated. A few laters they reunite and the guy has an ugly girlfriend and he's suddenly an activist against some sort of shady biological institute that clones people or whatever (What area of the body do they pull this stuff out from?). So then they (the boy and girl) drive to one of these protests but then the woman suddenly decides she has to pee…and she gets out of the car. While she's peeing, the guy is hit by a car and dies or whatever. So then the woman decides that the only reasonable thing to do is to clone him and give birth to him so that they could be together again. You can't make this stuff up, yet they did... I'd probably do the same, which is something I thought about after I had left about 20 minutes in and went home to type bad things about the film on the internet.

I then went back later in the day to see a movie that had replaced another one (Alps replaced the shitty excuse to see Emily Browning nude (Sleeping Beauty)) which I was then informed was being replaced by yet another film (Meek's Cutoff) which looked like the most boring movie since The American, so I wasn't having none of that. So I left looking like I had come only to see Emily Browning's breasts; leaving disappointed over the fact that there was to be none of that, which I really wasn't.

I then went back for A Matter Of Taste; the only film I saw today. And it was just great. The main character of the documentary as well as the director showed up and took shitloads of questions from the audience which was awesome because the main character is a fucking cool guy and the director really knew her stuff.

A Matter of Taste, (Rowe):
This movie reminded me of why I go to this festival. Which is to see well-edited, smart, original and interesting movies. It also has the laughs, which are always good to have. A Matter of Taste is a documentary on the 3-star chef Paul Liebrandt's struggle to find an output for his artistry as a chef and how important it is to have artistic freedom.
What really sells the movie is Liebrandt's personality and passion for the food he's making, which looks and is cutting edge. So even if you don't give two shits about paying 200$ for 5 ounces of food, the documentary really is accessible, fun and interesting. It might even make you interested in the culinary arts.

21. okt. 2011

BIFF 2011: Day Three

Confessions, (Nakashima):
Confessions is a movie about child-killing. And if anything it's proof that schoolchildren are fucking assholes. In any case, this film is scary and weird as shit and if the internet had taught us nothing about Japan I would be shocked. Confessions is about how a teacher's daughter is murdered by two of her students. It's a very intruiging concept that succeeds somewhat in mindfucking the audience.
Nummerert liste
One of the flaws is something I'd never thought I'd notice in an Asian film but I'd say the acting was a bit stiff at times (this is a joke on how asians all look the same and how asian actors are terrible. Now you ruined the joke). The narrative structure of the film could also have used some fine-tuning towards the second half when things stop making sense (or maybe I just fell a sleep for a few minutes, probably not though). Overall Confessions is a very entertaining film with lots of sick humor and shocking twists that should keep the audience interested even when the movie moves into some absurd territory.

Sing Your Song, (Rostock):
This is another one of those inspire-to-change documentaries. And there's nothing wrong with that because this movie actually plays on some interesting historical aspects of african american history. There's also a bunch of famous people talking about saving Darfur or some shit.
Anyways, this movie is quite decent and probably has a lot of unknown facts to people living outside the US. Even if you know all that shit, it doesn't hurt to jog your memory as it's still pretty relevant. There are maybe too many history lessons and not enough cinematic shit to make this a really great film, but it's an interesting documentary probably worth a watch. I mean if you have HBO or something you could or should probably watch it if it's on. I'd watch it.

Don't Be Afraid/No Tengas Miedo, (Armendáriz)
Probably the most uncomfortable movie I've seen since I saw Hannah Montana surrounded by 12-year-olds. Technically, that didnt actually happen but I imagine it would be pretty uncomfortable for everyone involved.
The reason why this film is so uncomfortable to watch might have something to do with that this movie is about child-molestation, which is a serious subject no doubt. And this movie does an admirable job of dealing with that subject, because it gives you a shocking look of how victims are affected long after the abuse has ended. Don't Be Afraid is all fictional of course, but it feels very close to reality.

A Declaration of War:
A pretty decent film on parenting and such.

20. okt. 2011

BIFF 2011: Day two

Beginners, (Mills):
Nearly perfect from beginning to end, Beginners is simply one of the best films released this year. Ewan McGregor is flawless in his role as the son who's trying to deal with his father's looming death, homosexuality and relationship with his deceased mother.
He also finds a love of his own that gives us some of the best on-screen chemistry seen in a while with Mélanie Laurent (Inglorious Basterds). Beginners is a complex drama with lots of heartfelt humor and emotion that manages to completely draw you into a different world for 105 minutes. It's really the dog that sells the movie though.

How To Die In Oregon, (Richardson):
This film takes on the difficult subject of doctor-assisted suicide with varied results. Like Armadillo on the Iraq war (or some other country filled with brown people) this movie feels more like a study of its subject made to provoke debates, rather than something that makes a real impact and sticks with you. There's really just too much of "this is how it is" filmmaking.
It's an important film no doubt, but not for reasons other than the theme it brings up. It is a touching documentary at times and it does feature some very interesting people, making it worth a watch.

The Interrupters, (James):
The Interrupters is a very good documentary on dealing with street-violence featuring some fascinating characters and stories. Although it might not be life-altering or something like that, it carries some neat life lessons.
It's certainly a very interesting and not to mention important documentary that shows us that street crime is a lot more complex and really a lot easier to deal with than it appears on the surface. It takes a little while to build up but it ultimately ends up being a very rewarding film.