K.O.III : the third Izola Film Festival / KINO OTOK (pt2)

KINO OTOK III : Izola Film Festival, Slovenia

reviews by Neil Young

PART ONE
Who Is Bozo Texino? (9/10) / Picture of Light (5/10) / Cycling Chronicle (7/10) / Monoblock (4?/10) / Full or Empty (6/10)

PART TWO (below)
Longing (6/10)
Bab'Aziz : The Prince That Contemplated His Soul (6/10)
Worldly Desires (7/10)
The Immortal (6/10)

PART THREE
Live-in Maid (7/10) / Grbavica (6/10) / Delicate Crime (4?/10) / A Short Film About the Indio Nacional (6?/10)

OVERVIEW for TRIBUNE magazine

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seen Monday 29th at Art Kino Odeon (Longing, Desires) and Kino Culturni Dom (Immortal), Izola*

LONGING (6/10)
   A small town in Germany: a metalworker specialising in locks also serves part-time as part of his local volunteer fire-brigade. He's besotted with his wife, and they have a young son. But during a training weekend in another town, he meets a waitress and they begin an affair which gradually provokes him into a full-blown existential crisis. Slow-burning drama from writer-director Valeska Grisebach is a work of moods and atmospheres, heavily significant looks and silences, examining in close detail the quotidian circumstances of its protagonist's life. There are hints that he is moving towards some kind of drastic, desperate violent act: he's very much one of those "quiet ones" whose bottled-up emotions ultimately finds a dramatic outlet.
   Poised, measured, low-key film recalls (among recent German films) Dito Tzintzadze's Gun-Shy (the painful anomie underlying obsessively passionate relationships), Andreas Dresen's Willenbrock (unremarkable bloke provokes extreme passions in the women he meets) and the stylised psychological studies to be found in the novels of Austrian writer Peter Handke. Demanding in its studied detachment, and perhaps a little too enigmatic for its own good, but has an intriguing, absorbing tone that sustains interest through the longueurs. Climax does feature the expected violent act, but is capped with an offbeat coda that we don't see coming and plays to Grisebach's strengths as a director of (non-professional) performers.

BAB'AZIZ, THE PRINCE THAT CONTEMPLATED HIS SOUL  (6/10)
   Picaresque, episodic, digressional desertine fable about an elderly, blind dervish travelling crosscountry to an important (religious/cultural?) meeting. He's accompanied by his young grand-daughter, an inquisitive and lively child who delights in hearing the old man's many stories. These are visualised in a series of sub-plots which may or may not connect into a coherent greater narrative. Picture combines the soulful and the epic – dazzling the eye with sweeping sand-dune vistas and pleasing the ear with a haunting score. It's the expressiveness of little Maryam Hamid as the grand-daughter (an "old soul" in a young body) which proves the most vivid element in this sprawling, ambitiously philosophical tapestry.

WORLDLY DESIRES (7/10)
Though the film's originality is one of its strongest suits, Apichatpong Weerasethakul's delightful 42-minute vignette Worldly Desires can perhaps be best summed up as a cross between Terrence Malick's The Thin Red Line, Victor Erice's The Quince Tree Sun and Peter Braatz's No Frank In Lumberton – the latter a little-seen but dazzlingly cubist look behind the scenes on the set of Blue Velvet. Worldly Desires is also a kind of "making of", though the viewer here is unable to tell whether the "film within the film" (a romantic fable with musical interludes, in which a star-crossed couple flee into the jungle) is real or fictional – and it soon becomes apparent that this question is at best irrelevant, at worst unhelpful. A document of shimmering, teasingly enigmatic fragments, the film functions as a playful dissection and deconstruction of cinema (if any dissection can indeed be playful, that is). Deadpan humour abounds – Weerasethakul manipulates and assembles his material with a beguilingly confident light touch, showing an instinctive flair for framing, editing and sound-design that leaves the viewer (somehow) both sated and happy for more.

THE IMMORTAL (6/10)
   Roughly contemporary with Kristina Konrad's Our America, here's another solid documentary on the Nicaraguan Civil War (Sandinistas vs Contras) by a European female director: in this case Mercedes Moncada Rodriguez, Spanish-born but half-Nicaraguan. The focus here is on one family torn apart (quite literally) by the conflict: the Rivera clan saw some of its members abducted by the US-supported Contra rebels, the remainder signing up for the government army. What makes this tale so particular and painful is that two twin brothers ended up on opposing sides: they, along with other family members, now calmly testify to events during the tumultuous 1980s.
   It's very strong stuff (including some passages of cockfighting and animal slaughter which may well repel many), and Rodriguez's approach is seldom subtle but nevertheless hits the mark most of the time. She's guilty of trying to cover a little too much thematic ground (long sequences chronicle the evangelical fervour which seems to have gripped many parts of the nation), and occasionally her camerawork and editing (and Diamanda Galas's characteristically doomy score) tip over from the forcefully dramatic to the distractingly hyperactive. The title, incidentally, refers to a large truck which pops up (for reasons which are never actually explained) from time to time – its ultimate fate revealed in the haunting final shot.

*Bab'Aziz : conclusion seen today on video in festival's 'Videoroom'; first hour seen three days previously at Kino Culturni Dom, Izola.