Cork Film Festival 2013: Diary Three

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Editor’s Note: The following review is part of our coverage of the Cork Film Festival. For more information on the festival visit corkfilmfest.org or follow the Cork Film Festival on Twitter at @CorkFilmFest.

Few weren’t left reeling by the end of Kid, a tough film to take at any time, but all the more so as early in the morning as it played Wednesday. Fien Troch’s movie, her third feature, is a coming-of-age film that gestures to the tropes of that well-worn narrative arc in its amusing opening act, playing to expectations with its childhood charms to lull us into a false sense of security. The consequences are considerable, and the devastating descent from the heights of youthful optimism to the depths of adult despair that Troch enacts is nothing if not heartbreaking. She does well to find a young actor as skilled as Bent Simons; his first performance is better than most professionals’ finest, embodying the end of childhood with a terrifically restrained physical transformation. Gorgeously shot with a rich sense of humour that never entirely dies—even when its original source seems to, at least on the inside—Kid is an exquisite effort, and a firm highlight of the festival so far. Full review here.

cff_3_2The penultimate instalment in the Nic Roeg mini-retrospective, which will conclude out of sequence on the high that is Walkabout, Eureka might best be described at the director’s equivalent of There Will Be Blood. Opening on a monumental success for gold prospector Gene Hackman, it’s an expectedly odd and editorially abrupt movie, though perhaps the first for which Roeg’s sensibilities aren’t entirely suited to the story at hand. Bergman might have made a brilliant movie of this: the emotionally-charged scenes of familial fallout are precisely his forté, and much as Roeg’s cast—none more so than Theresa Russell—may elevate matters, there’s a certain stuffiness that comes from seeing a filmmaker as frenetic as this restrained. That restraint can’t but consume the film, and the moments where the more familiar features of Roeg’s direction break forth craft a deleterious disparity between his sequences. Still, this is not a man to make uninteresting films; Eureka, if a fall from grace of sorts, manages at least a rather soft landing.

It’s not necessary to see ¡Vivan las Antipodas! on the big screen to understand that such a situation is all that could possibly do it justice. Even given pride of place as the This Week on Demand pick a fortnight ago, this isn’t a movie—ideally—to be seen online. Director Victor Kossakovsky, also taking the roles of cinematographer and editor, is like documentary film’s answer to Jacques Tati. His frames are full with funny details, packed with sly gags that make the most of cinema’s stature as a chiefly visual medium. His conceit—to capture life in four dry land antipodal pairs—is important only as an excuse to find folk as far apart as possible: it’s their refreshing differences and soothing sameness that says so much about our species, and the way we relate to the world around. These isn’t a film this year that so calls for the theatrical experience; ¡Vivan las Antipodas! is as cinematic as cinema comes, and as humanistic as humanity gets to boot.

Maybe to even out the sublime simplicity of All Is Lost, the festival opted to screen it with Carla MacKinnon’s admirably ambitious debut short Devil in the Room. Rodney Ascher of Room 237 fame recently announced his intent to mount a documentary on the phenomenon of sleep paralysis; he’ll have to work hard to outdo MacKinnon’s nine minutes here. Voiceover testimonials of nocturnal visitors are amusingly and intriguingly juxtaposed with the rational offerings of an expert, but it’s less in the actual exploration of the subject that this movie makes its impression than in the frightening visual style MacKinnon adopts. Combining live-action with stop-motion animation equally indebted to the brothers Quay and Wladyslaw Starewicz, this is an aesthetic oddity that excels in its vivid creation of the creatures its subjects describe. Creative cutting adds to the effect; Devil in the Room is a wonderfully inventive little horror doc, as creepy to experience as the phenomenon it’s focused on.

cff_3_3Vivid realisation is perhaps the most prominent link between that film and the feature it supported, though: J.C. Chandor’s sophomore outing is above all a staggering technical achievement. Thanks credits for the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans are every bit as appropriate as they are amusing, given the visceral veracity of the film’s wetness. Quite a departure it seems from Margin Call, yet the directorial control that’s foregrounded here was every bit as essential to that movie’s effect. He excels here, essentialising the aspects of the classic screen survival story for an exercise in narrative economy that’s astoundingly efficient. So much of that, of course, is down to the presence of Robert Redford, whose near-silent performance distils the essence of the thematic immediacy as only a talent this tremendous could. His casting might make Richard Dyer mess his pants: this is one of the more fascinating films for star studies in some time, relying on the bare essential of a recognisable face to hook us and keep us squirming throughout.

Up next: Nothing Bad Can Happen; Walkabout; Who Is Dayani Cristal?; Night Train to Lisbon; Painless.

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About Author

Ronan Doyle is an Irish freelance film critic, whose work has appeared on Indiewire, FilmLinc, Film Ireland, FRED Film Radio, and otherwhere. He recently contributed a chapter on Arab cinema to the book Celluloid Ceiling, and is currently entangled in an all-encompassing volume on the work of Woody Allen. When not watching movies, reading about movies, writing about movies, or thinking about movies, he can be found talking about movies on Twitter. He is fuelled by tea and has heard of sleep, but finds the idea frightfully silly.