55° GIJON INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL – PART I

This entry was posted on November 19th, 2017

La Vida Lliure (2017)

By David S. Blanco

Constanza Novick’s The Future Ahead (El futuro que viene) narrates, through big ellipsis, three periods in the life of two inseparable friends: adolescence, adulthood and finally, maturity. This may seem interesting, if it wasn’t because not in any moment the first stage of their lives is justified in screen, beyond some sporadic anecdote. Any references given later never form a solid whole.

Besides that, the performances are probably the base in which the film is sustained, with outstanding leads by Dolores Fonzi and Pilar Gamboa. But mere performances can´t hold the reiteration of film commonplaces visited by Novick’s film, which, at the end of the day, isn’t much more that the one hundredth history about how the life we imagined as small children, evaporates against the sad reality.

Better and more interesting was the Korean The First Lap, by Kim Dae-hwan, winner of the Best Director by the Young Jury of Locarno. It’s even more interesting because in part, grabs concepts of The Future Ahead, but makes a style out of its own pretexts –and limitations.

The film is divided in long sequence shots, in reduced spaces, spaces that serve as a projection of the mood of their characters, a young couple that lives locked up, in a dead time, where family drama and the world around them is a fierce oppressor agent. The surroundings confronting the individual is the great theme of the film, one of those slow burners of a film, that little by little shows universal situations, with great subtlety and naturalness, something that makes an instant connection with the spectator. Another film about the idea of what life should’ve been for ourselves, only that this time, it manages to convey that idea with minimal elements.

The new Marc Recha film, La Vida Lliure, picks up the witness of his previous work, A Perfect day to Fly (2015), film that competed in San Sebastian Film Festival, and was largely misunderstood by audience and press alike.

In La Vida Lliure, the Catalan director casts again Sergi López, even if great part of the film falls in the strength of two very young actors with lots of magnetism, Mariona Gomila and Macià Arguimbau. This trio will be the protagonist of a story located in 1918, in a remote part of Menorca Island, which will serve as a background for Recha for a new poetic and even magical story. Because just as in A Perfect day to Fly, in this film one can breathe this primal love for cinema, love for stories, for the ability to tell them and the ingenuity to create them. Stories of failures, of fears and dreams. Of telling about the exterior world through the interior one. This is a trademark of Recha, a filmmaker that can invade our screen with living stories with only two characters speaking among them. As all he needed was the power of the word.

In a more relaxed, carefree tone, the film Weirdos was presented to the audience, a film by Canadian filmmaker Bruce Mcdonald, which narrates the story of a young fan of Andy Warhol that decides to abandon his family residence to elope with his mother, who he hasn’t seen for years. This point of departure, will mark the beginning of a nice road movie, camouflaged in a coming of age film, which will explore the classic themes of sexual identity, parent/son relationships and an uncertain future in a time of adolescent effervescence.

It’s a good job for Mcdonald, throwing us back to a charming early 1970’s, and betting for a black or white photography that reminds us of the Mexican Güeros (2014). And, if something is missing from Weirdos, is the surprise, the rupture, both formally and narratively. The spectator is always two steps ahead of the story, and a real bond with the characters is really never achieved.

The third film of the day was the great film of the competition so far, the Georgian Scary Mother by Ana Urushadze, where the filmmaker dives deeply inside the creative process of a write through its main character, Manana, a housewife that lives prisoner of her own environment. As she finishes her book, the constant references that she takes from real life in her literary work angers several members of her family present in the book, taking the story to an extreme in the most contained way possible.

Beyond the story in itself, what makes this film an exemplary exercise of cinema, is its absolute control over the elements that are part of this unique piece of cinema. Urushadze knows how to use the space, oppressive and constantly broken with vertical compositions, unafraid of creating divergent ruptures in the shot, and marking always a clear difference between her lead character and the rest of them. This game with the environment has a capital importance, since from the vampiric wildness of the protagonist; every single place will be permeated of her necessity of living with literature through the others.

The Prince of Nothingwood, a documentary signed by a brave Sonia Kronlund, is not only an incommensurable piece of humor around the creation process of a film, it achieves to become a hurtful document of how war has devastated a whole region. With an admirable ability which is somewhat cruel from time to time, Kronlund watches the complicit laughter among the occidental audience when watching some of Salim Shaheen (an Afgan cinema star) films become a piercing dart, in front of the barbarism which has been documented by them, during the last 30 years.

In the same manner as The Act of Killing (2013) the horror comes as soon as one humanizes a group of individuals that goes against everything one stands for. The filmmaker gets inside a dangerous world of men, in an environment where stoning and attacks occur every day; to show to the world that even in the reigns of terror cinema emerges as an educational element, so necessary to appease the sorrow in the world.

Lastly, Eliza Hittman’s Beach Rats, winner of Best Director in Sundance 2017, achieves to offer a different perspective of this micro world so exploited in cinema which is sexuality in the adolescence.

And she achieves this, betting for a rupture in the sober planning that one is used to see in these types of festivals. The filmmaker wants to shows us the story of a boy that denies his homosexuality, and because of that, shows him in every moment with very close, unstable shots. The camera moves to the beat of his emotion, and even in the most algid moments of the story, we lose him from the frame, something that seems to be of little importance to the filmmaker.

Translated by José Sarmiento Hinojosa