Author James Berclaz-Lewis

James Berclaz-Lewis is an Anglo-Swiss post-graduate film student and freelance critic whose work has appeared on Indiewire, FIlmLinc, FRED Film Radio, as well as on obscure swiss printed press. Between screenings, he enjoys writing about irritatingly niche rock music, name-dropping greek philosophers, bearing the burden of supporting a mediocre soccer team and live-tweeting Love Actually.

Berlinale 2014 thesecondgame_2014_1

Porumboiu is, without the shadow of a doubt, my favourite representative of Romania’s celebrated New Wave. His brilliant 12:08 East Of Bucharest (2006), a tremendously sharp but unassuming dry comedy in which a local television host invites a guest line-up to look back at the events of the 1989 Romanian revolution, is perhaps my pick of the bunch. That film’s whole set-up is something of a satirical farce, the show’s guests bicker incessantly about minor details that may or may not even be relevant. In The Second Game, Porumboiu substitutes the depiction of a fictional experiment on memory with a real-time recording of a similar endeavour in which the director participates alongside his father.

Film Festival THECANAL_1-1

If NIFFF’s main competition line-up is anything to be believed, New Zealand filmmakers are all but confirming their knack for light-hearted genre fare this year with the programming of What We Do in the Shadows—a relentlessly funny vampire mockumentary I expanded on in a previous dispatch—and now Gerard Johnstone’s Housebound. It might not impress much…

Film Festival Discopathe (dir. Renaud Gauthier)

Day 4 gets off to an inauspicious start as my third venture into the Ultra Movies section reaps yet another foul proposition in the form of Renaud Gauthier’s cleverly-titled Discopath. An idea more appealing on paper than it proves in its lackluster execution, the story of a young man’s whose homicidal impulses are triggered by the sound of disco music nevertheless…

Film Festival Eat (dir. Jimmy Weber)

At the Neuchâtel Fantastic Film Festival, it’s only ever a matter of time before one stumbles across a modest C-movie full of good intentions, but also desperately meager on good ideas. By and large, sticking to the International Competition and the safe Films of the Third Kind sections more or less ensures an untainted journey through the festival, but venture into the gory…

Film Festival blind2_1-1

I return to the festival’s International Competition with Sundance and Berlin hit Blind, written and directed by the scribe for Joachim Trier’s celebrated Oslo, August 31st. Having recently lost her sight, Ingrid finds the limits of her reality suddenly thrust from the horizon to the walls of the apartment she shares with her husband. Within the confines of her own home, she…

Film Festival These Final Hours (dir. Zak Hilditch)

In what might at first seem like an ill-suited choice for NIFFF’s thrill-heavy program, my first seance of this 14th edition of NIFFF is Charlie Lyne’s teen-flick documentary Beyond Clueless. Indeed, NIFFF’s home of the film fantastique doesn’t immediately strike as the most appropriate place for a project that aspires to cover both the esteemed pantheon of the teen…

Cannes 2014 tdon_1-1

Prior to this 67th edition of the Cannes Film Festival, this is what the history books might’ve read under Dardenne brothers: ‘The very definition of a staple of the festival, the duo have been gracing the seaside town’s scarlet carpet with clockwork reliability since winning the Palme with Rosetta in 1999. Yet perhaps more striking than the frequency of their appearances…

Berlinale 2014 ibw_2-1

After ’71, the Berlinale’s second International Competition war film, was afforded a solid initial reception, pressure would’ve been on laid on Inbetween Worlds (Zwischen Welten) to similarly distinguish itself but also outdo the former were it to have any chance of converting critics and audiences to its cause. Instead, while the first took the form of a thrilling hybrid between the action-survival flick and the war genre, Feo Aladag’s latest is as cautious, and in many ways conventional, take on Western military intervention in the Middle East as seen through the eyes of one soldier and his allied local interpreter. There’s nothing inherently wrong with taking the classical aesthetic route, but its combination with an uninspired script and a preachiness that blatantly oversteps into jingoistic territory ultimately conspire to condemn it to irrelevancy.

Berlinale 2014 bcti_1-1

After several days of a drastically uneven Berlinale, I half-heartedly found the motivation to attend the screening for Yi’nan Diao’s third feature Black Coal, Thin Ice (Bai Ri Yan Huo). My expectations, at that point, were close to non-existent, and it is to my great surprise that I found myself genuinely captivated by this stylish neo-noir set in China’s industrial districts. Dong Jingong’s lambent cinematography delightfully captures the tale of the consequences of a gruseome crime, and how it brings a classical wounded femme fatale and an ex-cop closer together amidst a world of nebulous morals. The precise contours of its gripping narrative and purposeful sense of direction eventually recedes around midway, at which point the script begins to lose focus, its meandering state a resounding turn-off.

Berlinale 2014 journeytothewest_1-1

Critical favourite Tsai Ming-liang teams up with Lee Kang-sheng for a third time (after the recent Walker and Walking on Water), as the latter assumes yet again the role of the Bhuddist monk who treads the world with the slowest of motions. On this occasion, Kang-sheng’s hyper-languid mobility is set against the backdrop of Marseilles, from the rubble of a ruin to the front of a tea room by way of the seaside. While the film consists almost entirely of patience-testing shots of the monk as the city life bustles dynamically around him, its opening shot is an extreme close-up of Denis Lavant’s face, a landscape of crevices, imperfections, shadows and distinctive sadness.

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