Browsing: Locarno 2013


The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears could be a trainwreck of a film and still maintain pride of place in the giallo canon solely for that stupendous title. Right on par with, perhaps even above, the likes of The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, this is a name that grabs the attention and pins it to the wall like a burly bar patron whose drink’s

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It’s funny how filmmakers return time and time and time again to the found footage format, no matter the critical revulsion that greets it. It’s that lingering promise of reality; despite how popular the device has become—particularly in the horror genre—its potential to present the world as lived offers to shatter the protective illusion of cinema and confront the terror of life head-on. How interesting, then, that Matt Johnson chooses this format to present v, a dramedy centred on two bullied teens as they meticulously plan a school shooting and, if not a horror in the sense we’re accustomed to meeting via handheld home video, certainly a film rooted in the bewildering terror of an increasingly prevalent occurrence.

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It’s little surprise that a director as pointedly versatile as Kiyoshi Kurosawa should come to turn his attention to science fiction, that most challenging of genres to convincingly stage without any prior experience. Renowned for horror, regarded for thrills, and revered for his deservedly well-received foray into family drama with his last effort, Tokyo Sonata, Kurosawa turns his gaze to the future with the aptly-titled existential romance Real. His conceit is minimal, but pivotal: the new technology of “sensing” allows one closely-connected consciousness to enter another, an opportunity exploited by the young Koichi when his manga artist girlfriend Atsumi attempts suicide and lands herself in a long-lasting coma; the abstraction here is essential, based as it is in the essence of human emotion about which the film revolves.

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“I truly am a mad scientist,” quipped Douglas Trumbull, movie director and special effects legend, as his first Locarno masterclass—presented in celebration of his receipt of the festival’s inaugural Vision Award—wound down after ninety minutes of anecdote-addled speech. It’s important to note the order of the career strands there: Trumbull considers himself a director first and foremost; his second masterclass was dedicated entirely to discussion of his great 1972 debut Silent Running. “I sort of became known as a special effects guy,” he shrugged, as though the path his life took were just some strange accident of faith.

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As a serious fan of Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s momentous family drama Tokyo Sonata, I came to Locarno anticipating a heavy contender in the form of his latest: Real, a strange sci-fi drama that might easily be called Eternal Sunshine of the Incepted Mind. Alas, it’s only in terms of its concept that Kurosawa’s film earns those parallels; his movie is a mess, manically melodramatic and irreverently erratic every step of the way. Serious dialogue drew riotous laughter from the Wednesday morning crowd and the last twenty minutes make jaws and the floor the best of friends. Much more to be said in a full review to come.

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Ensemble comedy abounds in American independent offering Short Term 12, writer/director Destin Cretton’s sophomore effort after the ill-received I Am Not a Hipster. Riding atop a high wave of appreciation from its SXSW debut, where it took both jury and audience awards, it’s a crowd-pleaser by default rather than design: the notes it hits are struck without sentiment, yet ring with the truths of life; the themes on which Cretton touches are the stuff of universal experience, unearthed almost incidentally. Emotional manipulation is a tool nowhere to be found in Cretton’s belt; his is a sturdy craftsmanship, an economic and ergonomic direction that manages, all the while, a stirring aesthetic finesse.

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As the dawning day gradually arrives over the horizon, so too does Distant make its slow introduction, its early morning opening shot unhurriedly exposing a lonely lighthouse flashing its beam across the quiet sea. At its foot, a human silhouette becomes discernible to the eye, standing alone and staring out in synch with the structure beside. The quiet is contagious in its calm, a soothing silence that ropes the viewer into this world as it meticulously exposes more and more. The arrival of the title card comes, finally, after almost ten minutes; it’s easy, by then, to be surprised by its arrival: such is the lyrical suction of the movie’s allure that it’s difficult not to become intoxicated with its snail-crawl rhythm. Here is a movie that makes Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s 2002 effort of the same name seem a fast-paced thrill ride by contrast.

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Things got to yet another slow start on Monday—what has to be done to get something light and energetic to kick off a day’s screenings?—with Albert Serra’s Story of My Death, widely referred to about town as “Casanova meets Dracula”, as appealing a conceit as any other the programme had to offer. Speaking on Sunday about his films—known for their slow pacing, strange atmospheres, and script-free storytelling—in relation to critical reception, the Catalan director claimed that whether a lover or hater, nobody could say the new movie isn’t interesting. To which I say yes I bloody can: the idea is interesting, a fascinating collision of these icons and the respective historical eras they embody, yet when treated with Serra’s agonising blend of overbearing potty humour and austere art house sensibilities it rapidly casts away all potential and becomes instead a trite and tedious tale of annoying people walking about for a very long time. Serra’s artistic achievements are often enormous, his saturated frames and soothing music a beautiful blend indeed; if only his point were half as detailed.

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“I guess people see things the same,” shrugs a character in the final scene of Our Sunhi. It would be hard for this to be less true of the latest film from the South Korean writer/director Hong Sang-soo, whose uncanny ability to incite giddy laughter and blank stares in equal measure attests the particularity of his comedy. His is a wit so dry it could parch an ocean, his fondness for deadpan delivery and takes that wind on for minutes uncut a recipe for his own peculiar brand of success. And what success it’s been, allowing him to replicate his style—even down to his narratives and characters, which rarely change much—from movie to movie.

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It’s a sorry state of affairs when film festival dispatches have to be held off for a three-in-one package just to have enough movies to fill up a post. But then didn’t I tell you my Locarno experience would be vastly back-loaded? It’s only today that things out to kick into a higher gear, as other business gives way to watching and watching and watching and watching and watching some more. Daily updates will—should, must—follow from here; until then, days three through five:

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