Frost (Sharunas Bartas, 2017)

Sharunas Bartas’ Frost shows a different angle of the conflict with Russia and Ukraine (theme which is also dealt by Loznitsa’s A Gentle Creature) and that holds a pacifist moral position, that isn’t entirely resolved. A couple of young Lithuanian men enlist themselves as voluntaries to carry food and clothes to the border in the war zone. But this travel will be interrupted by different situations that allow them to affirm the friendship and love in their interior trip.

The Lithuanian filmmaker achieves moments of careful intimacy between the characters, portraying them as people motivated to register or live the war live, as if they needed a stimulus that make them feel alive (the use of social media like Youtube, for example). As we get closer to the war zone, a return to a known Bartas is perceived, but all this intention deflates under the premise that “war is bad” that rises as the moral frame of the film, with an almost unnecesary easiness of reflection that the filmmaker uses to remark the emergency and crisis situation. However, the film does improve in its final half an hour, which reminds us of the best moments of Bartas’ cinema.

A Gentle Creature (Sergei Loznitsa, 2017)

Meanwhile, in A Gentle Creature, Sergei Loznitsa poses a feminine character that searches for his husband in a Russian prison, finding only bureaucracy and the beginning of an odyssey that will take her in a trip rarified because of military men, policeman or pimps.

For Loznitsa the problem lies in the situation that the URSS dogmas left to Ukraine, materialized in a bust of Lenin, or mentions to Marx, morally impoverishing a region and its habitants with traces of militarism, of a socialist bureaucracy and where inefficiency and absurd seem to be a registered trademark

The problem with A Gentle Creature, which is based in a Dostoievki’s short story “A Gentle Creature”, is the intention to create analogies from the fantastic side of the Russian problem and also the separatist periphery of this troubled nation –in this case from the conflict with Ukraine, that becomes a ghost. Losnitsa develops a social radiography, through the story of a woman that never says no to anything, an emotional robot that lets go without thinking about any dangers. This social tale deals with prostitutes, bad policeman, inactive human rights ONG’s. A woman submitted to the rules of this new country, which seems like a no-man land.

With a “realist cinema” style, Loznitsa veers in a surprising way towards a Kusturican or Fellinian reverie, to show the impossibility to transform her character into a decision maker. A less truculent ending would’ve helped him.

What is particularly anecdotic is the inclusion of a “qualité” film like Rodin in the official competition. Jacques Doillon has definitely lowered the bar, to narrate through episodes, but in a parsimonious and academic way, a biopic of the famous sculptor that lacks the drive of other films of the French filmmaker. Not even the performance of Vincent Lindon can save this over affected film from the scaffold.

Alive in France (Abel Ferrara, 2017)

Finally, Abel Ferrara presented Alive in France, in the Quinzaine de Realizateurs, a film that registers a series of presentations of the filmmaker’s band and friends in Toulouse and Paris, last year. The filmmaker share scenes of the concerts- songs of the soundtracks made for his films (from Driller Killer to 4:44)- with diaries of behind-the-scenes of each presentation, where he’s shown with his family, in different conversations, in public dialogues about his films, that complement the moments of the concerts itself.

Alive in France is interesting as a film diary because it reveals a more accessible Ferrara, friendly and attentive with his fans. This is not only a fan film. He lowers the tone of his usual neurosis- at least the one he shows in interviews- and allows the spectator to wonder through his rocker and bluesman side, leaving evidence of a less know facet for history.

Director: Sharunas Bartas
Screenplay: Sharunas Bartas
Producer: Valery Kalmykov
Cast: Vanessa Paradis
90 min

Director: Sergei Loznitsa
Screenplay: Sergei Loznitsa
Cinematography: Oleg Mutu
Editing: Danielius Kokanauskis
Set Design: Kirill Shuvalov
Cast: Vasilina Makovtseva, Valeriu Andriuta, Sergei Kolesov, Dimitry Bykovsky
Slot Machine
143 min

Director: Jacques Doillon
Producers: Kristina Larsen for Les Films du Lendemain
Photography: Christophe Beaucarne
Costume Designer: Pascaline Chavanne
Cast: Vincent Lindon, Izia Higelin, Severine Caneele
Les Films du Lendemain

Director: Abel Ferrara
Producer: Nicolas Anthomé
Cinematography: Emmanuel Gras
Editing: Fabio Nunziata
79 min