BERLINALE DAY FOUR: VEIKO ÕUNPUU SAVES THE DAY, TSAI FOLLOWS UP

This entry was posted on February 12th, 2014

By José Sarmiento Hinojosa

FREE RANGE – VEIKO ÕUNPUU (FORUM)

Okay, let’s get it straight. If the author of The Temptation of St. Tony were about to do an absurdist, Dadaistic take on life over Estonia, we’d all be there to watch. But if besides that, he turns the tale into a dark comedy dressed as a 60’s “summer of love” affirming film (just formally of course, using some seriously fantastic cinematography -16 mm and slow motion sections included), then the oxymoron works perfectly and what we get is an absolute masterpiece of a film. Õunpuu’s film is, in my very personal view, the best film on Berlinale so far.

For Fred, who gets fired after writing a revealing review of Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life (“this faggoty fag director made a faggoty fag faggotry of a faggy film”), this review is a hilarious declaration, a manifesto of sorts, something out of the twisted reality this lead character has to endure: an unbearable existentialist drama. So what else to do but abandoning all common sense and let chaos rule his existence. And with Sussana, his pregnant girlfriend tagging along, all hell breaks loose. But nothing matters anymore, and what follows is a nonsensical parade of film mastery. Nothing gets solved; nothing works out, as we watch white horses running along a green beautiful field in a series of cross dissolved scenes which take comedy to its ultimate dark twist. Free Range deserves a place in film history.

Journey to the West 1

JOURNEY TO THE WEST – TSAI MING-LIANG (FORUM)

Lesson learned: You can’t go wrong with the Forum section of Berlinale. This 51 minute film, a part of a six series of Walker, where a monk walks in a really slow pace among different places in the world, is a wonderful piece of reflection, permeated with one of the most beautiful photography ever done in Tsai’s ouvre. We open with a close shot of Denis Lavant’s troubled, heavy-breathing meditative face, a five minute shot (approximately) which drives him to tears (somewhat reminiscent of Denis’ Beau Travail pre-last dance scene). It is a powerful overwhelming image, and what follows is Lee Kang-Sheng as a monk, slowly drifting along the streets of Marseille.

A profound, meditative journey through the slow action of performance, Journey to the West by Tsai Ming -liang could easily be shown as part of a museum exhibition: the roaming of human being across the land, where the path is more important than the destination. A collaboration long overdue, and a must-see film.